One of the first black officers to lead a Special Forces team in combat received the nation’s highest award for bravery in early March. The award was long overdue. It comes nearly 60 years after a commanding officer first recommended the then-captain for the honor.
President Joe Biden awarded the retired U.S. Army Colonel Paris Davis with the Medal of Honor for feats of heroism during the Vietnam War.
Davis, now 83, is no stranger to military honors. He has the Silver Star, the Soldier’s Medal, the Combat Infantry Badge, and the Purple Heart. He is also in the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame.
But until now, there’s been no Medal of Honor for Davis—despite multiple nominations. His commanding officer at the time nominated him for the award. But the paperwork “disappeared” at least twice.
Davis’ fellow soldiers repeatedly lobbied Congress. Each time, nothing happened. Members of Davis’ team long suspected that race played a role in the omission.
“I know race was a factor,” Davis told CBS News last year.
President Biden’s phone call “prompted a wave of memories of the men and women I served with in Vietnam,” Davis says. He thanked family, military friends, and volunteers for keeping his story alive.
“I think often of those fateful 19 hours on June 18, 1965, and what our team did to make sure we left no man behind,” he says.
Davis was in the Army Special Forces, an early Green Beret. On that day, Davis’ team conducted a pre-dawn raid on a North Vietnamese camp. The enemy counterattacked. Four Americans were seriously wounded.
Captain Davis repeatedly sprinted into an open rice paddy to rescue his team members. He fireman-carried a wounded comrade amidst heavy gunfire. When an enemy grenade shattered his hand, he used his pinkie finger to fire his rifle.
At one point, Davis’ commanding officer ordered him to evacuate. But Davis insisted he would not leave his comrades. One of them, Robert Brown, “lay out in the middle of the field some 14 hours from the start until the close of the battle,” according to Davis’ own chilling account. As a direct result of Davis’ bravery, the entire team survived.
Davis retired in 1985 with the rank of colonel.
In early 2021, the acting defense secretary ordered a review of the case. He argued that awarding Davis the Medal of Honor would address an injustice. President Biden agreed. And now, history does so in the formal record.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. — Joshua 1:9
Why? Bravery is a virtue that is commended in the Bible. Most often it is mentioned in tandem with trust in God and remembering that God is with His people.