President Biden on Friday awarded the nation’s highest award for military valor to a Vietnam veteran known for saving the lives of multiple soldiers and who was among the first Black Special Forces officers in the U.S. military.
During a ceremony at the White House, Biden presented the Medal of Honor to Col. Paris D. Davis, 63, whom the commander in chief praised as “a true hero of our nation.”
“Paris helped write the history of our nation,” Biden said, calling the war hero “everything this medal means” and “everything our generation aspires to be.”
“You are everything our nation is at our best: brave and big hearted, determined and devoted, selfless and steadfast,” the president added.
Biden then wrapped the Medal of Honor around the neck of Davis and shook hands with the smiling Green Beret.
Davis, of Cleveland, enlisted as an Army reserve armor officer in 1959 and graduated from both Airborne and Ranger schools in 1960.
He was then selected for an Airborne special forces group and served first in Korea before two deployments to Vietnam in 1962 and 1965.
During his second deployment to Vietnam, Davis was promoted to captain as a detachment commander with the 5th Special Forces Group.
He is best known for his heroism during a 19-hour battle in Vietnam. In June 1965, Davis led a team of South Vietnamese and four Green Berets to attack a North Vietcong base in the province of Bong Son.
After his team captured two enemy soldiers, he learned there was a larger force operating in the area and led his soldiers into battle at dawn.
Despite being wounded at least twice, Davis fought against enemy combatants, including in hand-to-hand combat, and managed to destroy several gun emplacements, capture enemy soldiers and prevent the capture of his own troops.
Davis then noticed two American soldiers were wounded, and he braved enemy fire to save both soldiers and bring them to cover — one at a time. He then called a helicopter evacuation to bring them back to base safely.
For his actions, Davis earned the Silver Star, the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart. Davis also saved the life of a soldier who was stuck in a burning fuel truck and won the Soldier’s Medal.
Davis is one of only four service members in the history of the U.S. military to receive both the Medal of Honor and the Soldier’s Medal.
During his remarks, Biden noted that Davis served during a time of segregation in America and never received the Medal of Honor despite being nominated. Davis told CBS News in 2021 race was a factor in the lost paperwork for his Medal of Honor nomination.
And yet, Biden said Davis “never lost faith” in his country.
“He never stopped believing in the founding vision of our nation,” Biden said. “The vision Paris fought to defend fifty years ago — this vision for a more perfect union.”