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Veterans’ Day Week Opens with Real Life War Hero

IMG_8950A color guard of Vietnam veterans opened a flag ceremony during Monday’s special assembly. They lowered their flags in front of the guest of honor, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, SFC Sammy Davis.

“We have this unbelievable opportunity to meet a real-life hero,” said Mr. Brian Liedlich, president, in introducing Davis to the crowd, which included students, faculty, and staff as well as military dignitaries, veterans, and public officials.

Davis’ appearance coincided not only with Veterans’ Day on Saturday but with the 50th anniversary of his courageous day in Vietnam, Nov. 18. 1967.

“I prayed that day, I prayed a lot,” Davis told the crowd. “I didn’t think I would survive and so I prayed to God, ‘Sir, help me to do my job.’ ”

IMG_8968Davis was just one year out of high school when he was deployed within an artillery regiment of just 42 men, to one of the southern provinces of Vietnam. On that fateful day, mortar attacks from 1,500 enemy soldiers started bombarding their units, Davis led the charge in firing back — more than 1,000 rounds — all despite being severely wounded himself.

“I was shot 30 times, my back was broken and my ribs were crushed,” Davis said. “But I want you to know, that whatever you’re facing, you don’t lose until you quit trying.”

Davis candidly spoke of the post-traumatic stress that he suffered as a result of his combat experience, but that as a result he shares his story — more than 200 appearances a year — and tells of the “brothers” he was privileged to serve with.

IMG_9012One, in particular, was Capt. John Dunlop, who asked Davis to play the folk song, “Shenandoah,” on his harmonica while they watched guard from their foxhole.

“He said it brought peace to his soul and strength to his heart,” Davis said.

Dunlop lost his life in Vietnam, and when the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in 1982, Davis played “Shenandoah” in front of Dunlop’s panel and he drew hundreds of veterans to surround him.

Davis and his harmonica now have become something of a healing presence for Vietnam veterans. At Monday’s presentation, one of those veterans in attendance asked Davis to play “Shenandoah” and it brought a rousing cheer from the teenage audience and veterans alike.

IMG_9126“Whenever I’m in uniform,” Davis said, “I always have my harmonica.”

Students gave Davis a standing ovation when he was introduced and an even longer one at the end of his one-hour appearance.

“It’s surreal meeting him in person,” said Hunter Johnson,’18.

His classmate, Corrigan Korab ’18, concurred: “It’s history right before our eyes.”

Senior Matt Firestone said he found it inspiring to hear Davis’ story, and of his heroism in the face of overwhelming odds.

“He had to keep going,” Matt said, “even though he knew he was outnumbered.”

Mr. Liedlich announced that in recognition of the many veterans in the Saint Viator family, a wall of honor, with touch screen access telling the stories of the alumni, faculty and staff members who had served in the military, would be installed in the school’s lobby.

“Thank you,” Mr. Liedlich told Davis and the veterans assembled, “for your service and sacrifice, and for answering the call.”

More photos: http://bit.ly/2lVrScV

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1 Comment

  1. Larry Forsberg '66

    Thank You Brian and your staff for hosting the great event with SSgt Davis. As a US Navy veteran of almost 50 years (I hate any expression that indicates I did something 50 years ago) I had never been in the presence of Medal of Honor winner. What an honor! I am looking forward to the creation of your “Wall of Honor” at SVHS.

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