Nov 28, 2016 at 07:20 PM

Medal of Honor Recipient Sammy Davis Brings Message of Moral Courage to San Marcos High School

By Pierre Claeyssens Veterans Foundation


Medal of Honor Recipient Sammy Davis Brings Message of Moral Courage to San Marcos High School

Vietnam veteran took questions from students during a Veterans Day assembly


Medal of Honor recipient Sammy Davis greets students after taking questions during Thursday’s assembly at San Marcos High School. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

By Sam Goldman, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @Sam__Goldman | November 10, 2016 | 9:38 p.m.

San Marcos High School students observed Veterans Day a day early on Thursday with a presentation by Medal of Honor recipient Sammy Davis.

On the 241st birthday of the United States Marine Corp, Davis, one of 76 living recipients of the military’s highest medal for valor, spoke about standing up for one’s beliefs, and took questions from students.

“What’s in my heart is that I love to help motivate America, and that is you,” he said to the roughly 800 students in the campus’ auditorium.

“My wife Dixie and I are on the road 200-plus days a year, traveling and speaking to schools all across America, trying to encourage each one of you to stand up firmly for what you believe is right in your heart.”

The sergeant enlisted with the Army in 1965 and served in Vietnam as an artilleryman.

Davis was severely injured at one point when his unit was overwhelmed by the Viet Cong, but pressed through to ferry wounded comrades across a river to safety. Only 12 of the 42 in his unit, including himself, survived the attack.

“I didn’t do anything heroic. I did my job; that’s what soldiers do,” he said in a short film where he recounted the experience. “If there was one (Medal of Honor) given that night, there should have been at least 42 of them, because if any one of us had not done our job, there would be none of us alive.”

Davis was nicknamed “The Real Forrest Gump” after footage of his receiving the Medal of Honor was used in the 1994 film, with Tom Hanks’ head superimposed onto his.

Medal of Honor recipient Sammy Davis says he and his wife travel to schools most of the year, “trying to encourage each one of you to stand up firmly for what you believe is right in your heart.” (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

The main message of the assembly was moral courage.

“Education right now focuses on science, math, language, literature and the arts, but it is not complete without moral courage,” said John Blankenship, a retired Navy lieutenant who introduced Davis.

Moral courage, Blankenship said, “is the willingness to defend your beliefs — and that willingness depends on your knowing why you embrace your beliefs.”

The assembly also served as the introduction of the Medal of Honor Character Development Program, a national teacher-designed program that provides students with opportunities to explore and apply the concepts of citizenship, commitment, courage, integrity, patriotism and sacrifice.

“I pray that freedom is what you feel is right,” Davis said. “That’s how we keep going; that’s how I justify what happened in Vietnam and justify what will happen tomorrow in America. Because I believe in you.”

Davis took a handful of questions and spoke about life at war.

He said he learned to play the harmonica in Vietnam when his mother sent him one, believing he was bored after receiving letters from him that covered dull topics like the smell of the mud and the size of the jungle’s bugs, rather than the harrowing experiences he was going through.

Davis sent off students with a harmonica rendition of “Oh Shenandoah,” a traditional American folk song he learned while overseas.

— Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk@NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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