Watch Live: Biden awards Medal of Honor to Ret. Col. Paris Davis for heroism in Vietnam
Washington — President Biden on Friday is awarding the Medal of Honor to Ret. Army Col. Paris Davis at a White House ceremony for his heroism during the Vietnam War nearly 60 years ago.
Davis was one of the first Black officers in the Army’s elite Green Berets, but his nomination for the nation’s highest combat decoration mysteriously vanished twice at the height of the civil rights movement.
Davis and those who advocated for him suspect race was a factor.
“And I think that’s a shame,” Regan Davis Hopper, his daughter, told CBS News’ Catherine Herridge ahead of Friday’s ceremony. “Discrimination hurts us all, not just the individual, but our entire country. So, I’m so proud of us to finally set this right.”
“My family hopes that in some small way it could just help us all heal some of the divisions in this country,” she said.
The Medal of Honor ceremony is scheduled to be held at 11:30 a.m. at the White House.
Davis saved the lives of two of his troops on the battlefield in Vietnam and ignored an order to evacuate during intense fighting in 1965. His commanding officer, Billy Cole, later nominated him for the Medal of Honor. But then the paperwork mysteriously vanished. A 1969 military review “did not reveal any file” on Davis.
It took the work of a diverse group of volunteers, many who didn’t know Davis but worked to revive his case.
The nomination was recommended by senior defense officials and ultimately approved by Mr. Biden, who called Davis last month to tell him he would receive the Medal of Honor “for his remarkable heroism during the Vietnam War,” according to a White House statement.
“The call today from President Biden prompted a wave of memories of the men and women I served with in Vietnam — from the members of 5th Special Forces Group and other U.S. military units to the doctors and nurses who cared for our wounded,” Davis said in a statement released by him and his family last month.
“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.”
With the award, Davis receives a new pension backdated to 1965. He will now be one of just 65 living Medal of Honor recipients, and said he shares it with his special forces soldiers.
“All the other soldiers that you’ve been working with and fighting with, somehow they need to touch that medal. You know, it ain’t all yours,” he said. “It’s for America, too.”