Vietnam veteran fought to live another year

Man wearing medals in green military fatigues

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero
U.S. Army and Vietnam War veteran Perry V. Benally, originally from Tohatchi, points at the area where a bullet narrowly missed his eye, which he says, would’ve killed him, last Friday.

TWIN ARROWS, Ariz.

Little did he know his greatest gift to himself was to keep himself alive to see the age of 24.

On the morning of Friday, Dec. 15, 1967, Vietnam veteran Perry V. Benally, originally from Tohatchi, New Mexico, found himself alone with about three grenades left to fight off soldiers of the North Vietnamese Army, or NVA.

He had bullets and he was more than 8,300 miles away from home in the jungles of the Central Highlands in Vietnam.

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The 5-feet, 5-inch young Navajo knew he was in the fight of his life –literally.

Most of his platoon were killed or injured, including him. He was shot in his left lower abdomen and his right calf. A third bullet just missed his right eye, but a slight movement to the left was enough for the bullet to only graze his temple.

“I saved my own life,” said Benally.

He was with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division, U.S. Army.

“I kept firing and that’s when I got hit,” he said. “Grenades started coming in and they couldn’t get to me. I started crawling and I saw two NVAs coming out of a hole. So I had to kill them with my bayonet. Even though I was wounded, I started crawling.”

Benally unknowingly crawled through a graveyard as his enemy yelled at him, “GI, you’re gonna die tonight!”

The moon was his friend that night, as it was nearly full. It helped him spot his foe’s movement.

All that night, Benally fought for his life. He was not about to be taken alive and decided he would take as many of them as he could with him if it came down to it.

The next day, Saturday, Dec. 16,1967, was more of the same until towards evening when he was saved. By that time, his wounds, which he said he treated himself, had gotten worse.

His comrade, whom he called Viking, found him and almost shot him because he thought Benally was NVA.

He was taken to a helicopter and given morphine, he recalled.

“Next thing I know I was in the field hospital,” he said.


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