America’s Real Heroes — Models of Service and Sacrifice

Posted on Thu 03/24/2022 by

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“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity … at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.” ~  

“There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty, that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism.” —Alexander Hamilton (1775)

In a recent column, I noted that, despite all the divisive noise from the Beltway babblers, there is much good and right about our great nation. Indeed there is; all one need do is look around.

I also wrote that the word “hero” is grossly overused and misapplied, and offered my own definition of “hero” in the proper context: “An ordinary person faced with extraordinary circumstances, summoning the greatest measure of courage in order to place his or her life at immediate risk to save the life of another.” Thus, “hero” is a word that should be reserved exclusively for that level of service and sacrifice, be it by an average citizen, a first responder, or a military Patriot.

Like “hero,” national day proclamations have also been diluted with nonsense, but some days of recognition are actually significant.

This week, we honor one group of real heroes, those who themselves have honored their oaths “to support and defend” our Constitution, and their fellow warriors, at great risk of blood and life. National Medal of Honor Day is an opportunity to recognize the recipients of our nation’s highest military award, and to remember their extraordinary sacrifice on behalf of their brothers in arms and in defense of American Liberty.

It marks the anniversary observance of the first medals awarded on March 25, 1863, for actions by Andrews’ Raiders. Their valorous acts were immortalized in print and film as “The Great Locomotive Chase,” which started in Big Shanty, Georgia, on April 12, 1862, and ended just south of Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Notably, Chattanooga was also the field of service for the only woman to be awarded a Medal of Honor, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker. Other well-known recipients from our area include World War I veteran Alvin C. York, whose life story was immortalized in the film “Sergeant York,” and my old neighbor, World War II veteran Desmond Doss, whose heroic actions were featured in the outstanding film “Hacksaw Ridge.”

Today, I invite you to take a minute and read about another friend I first met a decade ago, Sammy Lee Davis — a man who, in the face of mortal danger, demonstrated “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”

Sgt. Sammy Davis (USA Ret.) is better known as “The Real Forrest Gump,” because his combat service and the awarding of his Medal of Honor were written into the popular film “Forrest Gump.”

Sammy’s Medal of Honor citation notes his actions on 18 November 1967, in an area near Cai Lai in the Republic of Vietnam — “for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.” While serving with Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 4th Artillery, 9th Infantry Division, then-PFC Davis was involved in heavy action during a night attack by a reinforced Viet Cong Battalion. During the action in which his squad fired a 105mm howitzer with beehive rounds directly into the enemy, Davis defended the gun position with a machine gun, providing covering fire for his gun crew until an enemy recoilless rifle round scored a direct hit on the artillery piece, blowing the crew and Davis from their positions.

Davis returned to the gun emplacement and began firing directly into the attacking enemy while ignoring his own safety. He was wounded a second time when an enemy mortar round exploded nearby. Although badly injured, Sammy returned to his position again and continued firing until he had expended all rounds.

Then, after hearing calls for help from across the nearby river, Sammy, who was unable to swim because of his injuries, used a flotation device to get across the river, where he both defended and rescued three of his fellow soldiers who were also badly wounded. Once back across the river, Sammy refused medical attention and returned to the fight, joining another howitzer crew until the enemy broke contact.

You can watch Sammy recount the events of that terrible night here.

On a lighter note, he learned to play the harmonica in Vietnam, and on one trip to our area to visit Desmond Doss, he blessed him on an east brow overlook of the valley at dusk one evening by playing his trademark tune, “Shenandoah.”

Sammy embodies all that is good and right about America. And, as is the case with all the Medal of Honor recipients I’ve met over the years, Sammy is a model of humility and civility — unless, of course, you mention the traitorous John Kerry or Jane Fonda, names that evoke the strongest condemnation among distinguished Vietnam veterans.

On Patriotism, he says, “Do what you know is right in your heart.” Duty, honor, country. He is quick to note that everyone can serve our country — it doesn’t have to be in the military. “Service to others is what makes true happiness within our families and community.”

One of the greatest things about visits from Sammy is that he is always with his lovely bride, Dixie. You will never meet two people more imbued with life and love for each other and our great country.

Of our Patriot Post team, Sammy notes his enthusiastic support because we “espouse everything I believe is true and correct for America.” He says we must ensure our countrymen understand our great national history and how fortunate we are to live free, due in large measure to our committed military service members.

Today, his motto is, “You don’t lose ‘til you quit trying.” And he never has. That is the subject of his book by that title with the subtitle, “Lessons on Adversity and Victory from a Vietnam Veteran and Medal of Honor Recipient.” (If you would like to purchase a signed and inscribed copy of his book, or Dixie’s Endless Love and Second Chances, use the comment link below this article to request information on how to do that.)

Fellow Patriots, if you ever find yourself short of inspiration, I have profiled some of Sammy’s friends, among others, whom I have had the distinct blessing of knowing for many years: Medal of Honor recipients Cpl. Desmond Doss (Army), Sgt. Gary Beikirch (Army), T/Sgt. Charles Coolidge (Army), Lt. Col. Chuck Hagemeister (Army), Col. Wesley Fox (Marine), and Col. Leo Thorsness (Air Force).

On the subject of inspiration, Col. Thorsness always mentioned in his public remarks a fellow POW, Navy pilot Mike Christian. Mike was the subject of a column, “Our Flag — What Do You See?,” and a children’s book we published, I’m Your Flag So Please Treat Me Right!

Finally, I have the honor and privilege of serving on the Advisory Board for the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center, dedicated to educating the next generation of Americans about the six character trait pillars demonstrated by Medal of Honor recipients: Courage, Sacrifice, Patriotism, Citizenship, Integrity, Commitment.

For more information on supporting the National Heritage Center, please contact the Patriot Foundation Trust administrator or visit the Heritage Center website.

I leave you with two quotes, the first of which greets all visitors to the Heritage Center: “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

The second is the timeless words of Thomas Jefferson at the dawn of the American Revolution, which established American Liberty: “Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them if we basely entail hereditary bondage on them.”

Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Pro Deo et Libertate — 1776

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