Medal of Honor recipient shares story with Fort Benning troops
April 27, 2011
- Retired Sgt. 1st Class Sammy L. Davis recounts events he and his fellow Soldier experienced at remote fire support base in Vietnam.
- The retired Soldier is one of 85 Medal of Honor recipients still living.
FORT BENNING, Ga. - In Cai Lay, Vietnam, Nov. 18, 1967, a young Soldier helped rescue his injured comrades by swimming across a river on an air mattress despite having a broken back, three broken ribs, shrapnel wounds, a gunshot wound and not being able to swim. Disregarding his injuries, he stood up and fired at enemy soldiers and protected his comrades until it was safe to transport them back across the water.
Retired Sgt. 1st Class Sammy L. Davis, a Medal of Honor recipient, shared his story with 240 Fort Benning, Ga., Soldiers from the Maneuver Captains Career Course, Officer Candidate School, Noncommissioned Officer Academy and Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course April 19, 2011, at Pratt Hall.
The 64-year-old recapped what happened as he and 41 other American Soldiers fought against 1,500 Viet Cong soldiers. After rescuing other Soldiers, Davis continued to fight until he was incapacitated.
"You don't lose until you quit trying," he said. "It was a lesson I learned on the riverbank, and at that time I thought it would probably only apply to me in a combat situation. But what I have found out in the last 44 years (is) that no matter what you're involved in and no matter where you are -- no matter what you're faced with, you don't lose until you get to that point where you go 'I quit.'"
Only 12 of 42 Soldiers survived the confrontation. Davis said the surviving 11 men recommended his name for the Medal of Honor.
"In my opinion those 11 other men should have Medals of Honor also, because if any one of us had not done our job, none of us would have survived," he said.
Forty-four years later, Davis tours the country speaking to troops. He said it would have helped him as a young Soldier "if people would have come and shared with me what was in their heart."
But now he has the opportunity to help guide other Soldiers.
"I open up my heart and let them look in and I answer any question that they have," he said. "And like I tell them, there is nothing too personal. If you want to know the answer I will open my heart and tell you my truth."
Davis received the decoration in 1968 from President Lyndon B. Johnson for his conduct during the Vietnam War.
The Medal of Honor, he said, was about love and not hatred.
"There are still those who believe the Medal of Honor signifies the hatred that goes along with war, and that's the farthest thing from the truth that there can be," Davis said. "The Medal of Honor is about love. It's the love in your heart that allows you to have the physical and mental strength to do impossible tasks to help your brothers or sisters."
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration and is presented to Soldiers who distinguish themselves, "conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty."
There are 85 living recipients of the Medal of Honor.