Vietnam Veteran Finally Receives Medal of Honor

Biden tells Black trailblazer and hero he represents the best of America
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 3, 2023 5:25 PM CST
Vietnam Veteran Receives Long-Delayed Medal of Honor
Retired Army Col. Paris Davis stands with President Biden on Friday at the White House.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Nearly 60 years after he was recommended for the nation's highest military award, retired Col. Paris Davis, one of the first Black officers to lead a Special Forces team in combat, received the Medal of Honor on Friday for his bravery in the Vietnam War. After a crowded White House ceremony, Davis emphasized the positive of the honor rather than negative of the delay, the AP reports, saying, "It is in the best interests of America that we do things like this." Thanking President Biden, who draped a ribbon with the medal around his neck, he said, "God bless you, God bless all, God bless America."

The belated recognition for the 83-year-old Virginia resident came after the recommendation for his medal was lost, resubmitted—and then lost again. It wasn't until 2016—a half-century after Davis' heroic actions—that advocates painstakingly re-created and resubmitted the paperwork. Biden described Davis as a "true hero" for risking his life under heavy enemy fire to haul injured soldiers under his command to safety. When a superior ordered him to safety, Biden said, Davis replied: “Sir, I'm just not going to leave. I still have an American out there." He went back into the firefight to retrieve a wounded medic.

"You are everything this medal means," Biden told Davis. "You're everything our nation is at our best." The president said Davis should have received the honor years ago, describing segregation in the US when he returned home and questioning the delay in awarding him the medal. Davis doesn't dwell on the delay and said he doesn't know why decades had to pass before he received the honor. "When you're fighting, you're not thinking about this moment," Davis told the AP. "You're just trying to get through that moment."

  • The New York Times looked at the career and long-overlooked heroism of Col. Paris Davis.
(Read more Medal of Honor stories.)

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