Sammy Davis — a man whose bravery beyond the call of duty in the Vietnam War made him a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient — is speaking Sunday at the Memorial Day Weekend Commemoration at Woodward Park.
He will be part of the Community Memorial Service at 1 p.m. that follows the escorting of Gold Star families to the park by the Patriot Guard Riders and the Manteca Police Department.
Presidents, in the name of the United States Congress, have awarded 3,459 medals since the Civil War.
Davis, 69, grew up in French Camp where he fondly remembers playing in canals during the summer to cool off.
At Manteca High, he played left tackle on the Buffaloes football team and was on the dive team.
It was also at Manteca High where he was influenced by several teachers including Bill Forbes.
“He (Forbes) taught me to stand up for what I thought was right in my heart,” Davis said during an interview nine years ago.
Davis attended Manteca High through his junior year. After that, his family moved to Indiana. He enlisted in the Army in Indianapolis.
Davis’ decision to enlist in the military at the height of the Vietnam War was a no-brainer for him.
“It was my time to serve,” Davis recalled.
His father, Robert Davis, served in World War II. Brother Hubert “Buddy” Davis served in the Korean War and brother Darrell Davis served in the Vietnam War. His grandfather also served in the Spanish-American War.
Davis has been a Sea Scout in Stockton. Because of that, when he went to the recruitment center, his intent was to join the Marines.
“This is the truth,” Davis said when he started to explain why he joined the Army, “I don’t like standing in lines. The line to join the Army was shorter, so I got in that line and joined the Army.”
The defining moment of Davis’ life took place nearly 49 years ago in November 1967 west of Cai Lay in the Republic of Vietnam.
Davis was a 21-year-old sergeant with the U.S. Army, Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 4th Artillery, 9th Infantry Division.
A number of his seriously wounded comrades were hollering out for help across a deep Vietnam river as 1,500 enemy troops were advancing on 42 Americans. Davis didn’t worry about the fact he was wounded so he couldn’t swim or that heavy incoming fire threatened to end his life at any second.
Davis helped fire rounds back at the enemy located some 25 meters away when mortars hit American artillery positions and gravely injured three of his comrades. Between valiant efforts to keep the enemy from advancing, Davis grabbed an air mattress and struck out across the river to rescue his wounded comrades one by one. Each time he reached the far shore Davis stood up and opened fire on the enemy to prevent them from advancing and finishing off the three soldiers.
Though suffering from critical wounds, Davis’ heroics continued after he pulled the last man back across the river. He refused medical attention and instead joined another howitzer crew that fired at the large Viet Cong force until it broke contact and fled.
Davis literally grew up in Vietnam sprouting up seven inches and adding 40 to 45 pounds to his frame.
“The military is a way of life, it’s a brotherhood,” said Davis in 2007. “There is no doubt in my mind that every one of my fellow soldiers would have swam across that river to get me.”
There are five different events this three-day weekend honoring those who have fallen while serving America as well as those who served in the military and have since passed away.
Sunday at Woodward Park
6:30 a.m. Registration for Wounded Warrior Christopher Braley 5K Run/Walk sponsored by Kaiser Permanente and Freedom Smog
7 p.m. Marine Cpl. Charles O. Palmer II Memorial Car Show registration begins
8 a.m. Wounded Warrior Christopher Braley 5K Run/Walk sponsored by Kaiser Permanente and Freedom Smog starts.
8 a.m. Flyover and cannon fire
8 a.m. Breakfast by Nulaid Eggs
8 a.m. Marine Cpl. Charles O. Palmer II 8th Annual Classic Car Show
9 a.m. Flag raising ceremony (Ripon VFW Post 1051)
9 a.m. Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Patrol chopper landing
10 a.m. REACH Air Medical Flight Helicopter lands
10 a.m. Free kids’ energy zone, military exhibits, food and drink concessions open
10 a.m. Chapel worship
10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Memorial Theater
10:30 a.m. CAF/Central Valley Squadron Goony Birds fly over
11 a.m. Manteca Police Department & Ripon Police Department SWAT and K9 demonstrations
Noon Patriotic Music on the Veterans Stage
12:15 a.m. Sheriff’s helicopter takes off for processional
12:30 p.m. Processional led by Patriot Guard riders
12:45 p.m. Arrival of the Gold Star families
1 p.m. Community Memorial Service and Missing Man Formation fly over
2 p.m. Ranell Carpenter on the Veterans Stage
3 p.m. Fred White on the Veterans Stage
3:30 p.m. Flyover featuring a World War II bomber from the Stockton Air Museum
4 p.m. Advocates on the Veterans Stage
4 p.m. Helicopters will take off
6 p.m. JD Greer performing on the Veterans Stage
7 p.m. Revived performs on the Veterans Stage
8 p.m. Simone Benoit on the Veterans Stage
9 p.m. Fireworks celebrating the safe return of all who have worn the cloth of our nation sponsored by Manteca Christian Preschool
The Traveling Tribute will remain open for public viewing through 4 p.m. on Monday.
10 a.m. Ripon Cemetery, Ripon. Memorial Day ceremonies
10 a.m. East Union Cemetery, Manteca. Memorial Day Ceremonies
11 a.m. Lathrop Veterans Memorial, Valverde Park on Fifth Street, Lathrop. Memorial Day ceremonies
11 a.m. Park View Cemetery Memorial Day
To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org