Medal of Honor recipient visits Light Foundation

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Medal of Honor winner Sammy Davis shares with campers at Light Foundation Camp Vohokase Leadership Camp. (Gaylen Blosser photo)

GREENVILLE – United States Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Sammy Davis recently spent two days at the Light Foundation’s Camp Vohokase Leadership Camp and talked about his time in the Army as a young soldier, including the first time he put on our nation’s uniform.

Medal of Honor winner Sammy Davis (L) joins Matt Light (R) at the Light Foundation’s Leadership Camp. (Gaylen Blosser photo)

“My family was military, and they had told me some stories, so the first time I put my uniform on, it was, ‘wow’,” Davis said. “My dad and my grandpa told me just do your job, and I did my job, and it worked.”

Davis joined the Army while still in high school but was inducted on September 28th.

“I had to do something all summer, so I went to work in the oil field,” Davis noted. “As the young kid, I was the one that was pumped muscular-wise, so basic training wasn’t as hard on me as it was for most of the other kids because I had been working hard.”

Following basic training, the young soldier had orders to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for his advanced training.

“I enjoyed training,” he said. “I learned a lot of things.”

Upon graduating from advanced training, Davis went home on leave before heading to Vietnam for a year of service.

“We flew into Ben Hoa Airforce Base, and it was beautiful,” Davis said. “They kept us at Ben Hoi for over 30 days for whatever reasons, but I loved it. I got to go out to the jungle, where I got to eat real bananas and coconuts, and it was wonderful.”

Davis recalls his plane trip home from Vietnam before landing in San Francisco.

“Nothing,” Davis said of what was taking place on the plane before taking off from Vietnam. “We just sat there and looked out the window – wow,” he said. “Then we landed in San Francisco, and in the airport, we got to meet about 600 of the hippies protesting us. They had buckets full of dog crap that they threw at us and rubbed on us. Our sergeant told us before we got off the airplane, ‘Do not respond to whatever they do because they’re doing it because they just want to get on TV,’ and that’s what we found out, so we didn’t. We walked right through them, and they put dog crap in our mouth and in our ears – we just kept walking.”

In 2016, Sammy and his wife Dixie returned to Vietnam, where Davis was critically wounded, leading to his receiving the Medal of Honor.

“Dixie and I and one of the men I swam across the river for in Vietnam to earn the medal, we got to go to the exact spots where I was at, where I swam across the river to save my brothers and the people treated us unbelievably well, it was wow. The Vietnamese people treated us wonderfully.”

“The way we were treated walking down the street of Siagon, and I was just in blue jeans and a t-shirt, and little kids would come up and touch my arm and look me in the eye and say, ‘thank you,’ and our interpreter said, ‘probably that means somebody in their family were alive when you were here.’ It was awesome.”

Dixie and Sammy enjoy attending schools and sharing that history repeats itself with students.

“They have to know how we arrived at this point,” Davis shared. “We have good kids in this country, and we have parents that need work, but we have good kids, and it’s our job to keep inspiring the youth to stand up for what they believe is right in their hearts. That’s our job.”

CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR CITATION

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Sgt. Davis (then Pfc.) distinguished himself during the early morning hours while serving as a cannoneer with Battery C at a remote fire support base. At approximately 0200 hours, the fire support base was under heavy enemy mortar attack. Simultaneously, an estimated reinforced Viet Cong battalion launched a fierce ground assault upon the fire support base. The attacking enemy drove to within 25 meters of the friendly positions. Only a river separated the Viet Cong from the fire support base.

Detecting a nearby enemy position, Sgt. Davis seized a machine gun and provided covering fire for his gun crew as they attempted to bring direct artillery fire on the enemy. Despite his efforts, an enemy recoilless rifle round scored a direct hit upon the artillery piece. The resultant blast hurled the gun crew from their weapon and blew Sgt. Davis into a foxhole. He struggled to his feet and returned to the howitzer, which was burning furiously. Ignoring repeated warnings to seek cover, Sgt. Davis rammed a shell into the gun.

Disregarding a withering hail of enemy fire directed against his position, he aimed and fired the howitzer, which rolled backward, knocking Sgt. Davis violently to the ground. Undaunted, he returned to the weapon to fire again when an enemy mortar round exploded within 20 meters of his position, injuring him painfully. Nevertheless, Sgt. Davis loaded the artillery piece, aimed, and fired. Again, he was knocked down by the recoil. In complete disregard for his safety, Sgt. Davis loaded and fired three more shells into the enemy.

Disregarding his extensive injuries and his inability to swim, Sgt. Davis picked up an air mattress and struck out across the deep river to rescue three wounded comrades on the far side. Upon reaching the three wounded men, he stood upright and fired into the dense vegetation to prevent the Viet Cong from advancing. While the most seriously wounded soldier was helped across the river, Sgt. Davis protected the two remaining casualties until he could pull them across the river to the fire support base.

Though suffering from painful wounds, he refused medical attention, joining another howitzer crew that fired at the large Viet Cong force until it broke contact and fled. Sgt. Davis’ extraordinary heroism, at the risk of his life, is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.