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Retired Vietnam War hero to get Medal of Honor nearly 60 years later

Army civilian employees pass around Retired Master Sgt. Leroy Petry’s Medal of Honor while attending a Mental Health Awareness Observance May 17, Heritage Hall, Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois. (DVIDS)
February 16, 2023

One of the first black Army officers ever to lead a Special Forces team into combat is set to receive the Medal of Honor decades after first being recommended for it.

Retired Army Col. Paris Davis got a call from President Joe Biden on Monday telling him he will be given the military’s highest decoration for acts of valor, the Associated Press reported. His commanding officer recommended Davis for the award nearly 60 years ago after he rescued every member of his Special Forces team during a battle in the Vietnam War.

Afterward, his Medal of Honor paperwork vanished at least twice before he was awarded the third-highest decoration for valor, the Silver Star Medal, AP reported. His Medal of Honor finally came following a 2021 request from Sen. Tom Cotton for expedited review of Davis’ story, according to a press release.

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Davis’ team faced a significant enemy counterattack that wounded every American involved during a pre-dawn raid on a North Vietnamese army camp in Bong Son, according to Army Times. 

“After enduring 18 hours of ceaseless attacks by a numerically superior enemy, [then-Cpt.] Davis demonstrated heroic courage by rescuing three of his team members who had fallen during battle, despite being wounded himself,” Cotton wrote.

Davis repeatedly ran into an open rice paddy to save team members and used his pinkie to fire his rifle after an enemy grenade shattered his hand, Army Times reported.

He retired in 1985 after having risen to command the 10th Special Forces Group, according to Army Times. In a statement, the 83-year-old veteran said the call from Biden “prompted a wave of memories of the men and women I served with in Vietnam.”

“I am so very grateful for my family and friends within the military and elsewhere who kept alive the story of A-team, A-321 at Camp Bong Son,” he said. “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 on that battlefield.”