Medal of Honor recipient visits students
Posted: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 8:00 pm
By MATT LAKIN
Knoxville News Sentinel
KNOXVILLE (AP) — For Sammy Davis, the greatest honor comes from seeing the children’s faces as they hold his medal in their hands.
“When you see the looks on their faces and hear the questions they ask, it’s very easy to open up your heart and let them look in,” he said recently. “There have been over 2.5 million children hold this medal. I tell them, it’s theirs. I’m just the caretaker of it.”
Davis, 65, received the Medal of Honor for holding off a Viet Cong assault and for saving three wounded members of his Army artillery crew during fighting near Cai Lay, Vietnam, on Nov. 18, 1967.
He came to Knoxville to take questions from elementary students at Sacred Heart Cathedral School and to help promote the Medal of Honor Society’s upcoming convention in Knoxville, set for October 2014.
Organizers estimate the convention could bring more than $2 million in revenue.
Most Americans have seen Davis, even though they might not recognize him. Hollywood substituted actor Tom Hanks’ image for his to create the fictional Medal of Honor ceremony in the 1994 film “Forrest Gump.”
Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero turned out to welcome Davis. A recent visit included a send-off for World War II veterans on an HonorAir flight to Washington, the Sacred Heart appearance, a luncheon at Cherokee Country Club and a talk with airmen at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base.
“As much as we would like to pay back to all those who have served in our nation’s history, we cannot,” he told the crowd at Cherokee Country Club. “But we can pay it forward. We want to go talk to your children. We want to share what’s in our hearts with your youth.”
The students at Sacred Heart wanted to know how Davis felt as he rescued his comrades under fire.
“I was scared,” he said. “It’s OK to be scared if you’re in frightening circumstances, but you can’t let it keep you from doing your job.”
He said the convention, which typically includes school visits and other public and private events, offers a perfect opportunity to spread that message.
“That’s something we’re trying to share with students — is that duty, honor and country are a way of life,” Davis said.
Published in The Messenger 5.02.12