November 18, 1967, Salinan Jim Deister was hit by enemy fire and lay dying in a field in Vietnam.
“I thought he was dead at the time because he’d been shot through the head and been shot through the chest, but you don’t leave a brother,” said Medal of Honor recipient Sammy L. Davis.
The U.S. Army veteran who won America’s highest military honor, joined in on the KSAL Morning News Monday over the phone with a look back at that day.
“A heavy weapons battalion attacked us. Jim was severely wounded and I swam across the river to bring him back to our side of the river.”
Deister, who still has trouble hearing from wounds suffered in the attack shook his head as friend Bud Deghand wrote notes for him to read in-studio during the interview.
Deister, who is the current President of the Vietnam Veterans of America and Deghand were on hand to let the audience know about the upcoming Freedom Celebration for Veterans on July 3rd in Salina at the Emmanuel Foursquare Church, 1325 E. Cloud. Sammy Davis will be the keynote speaker at 7pm, following a 5pm dinner.
On July 4th, the public is invited to meet Sammy Davis at a book signing from 10am to 12pm at Ad Astra Books and Coffee House. A round-table discussion will take place July 4th at St. Elizabeth Church from 2pm to 5pm on topics ranging from PTSD, use of Agent Orange and Veteran suicide.
Davis’ medal ceremony with President Lyndon Johnson has now been seen by millions of movie lovers around the world, made famous by the 1994 film Forrest Gump. Tom Hank’s head was digitally placed on Sammy during the scene.
“The movie, Forrest Gump in my opinion is excellent because it teaches everybody watching that you don’t lose until you quit trying,” Davis said.
Official Army account of Sammy Davis’s actions that earned him the Medal of Honor:
18 November 1967 – At approximately 0200 hours, the fire support base was under heavy enemy mortar attack. Simultaneously, an estimated reinforced Viet Cong battalion launched a fierce ground assault upon the fire support base. The attacking enemy drove to within 25 meters of the friendly positions. Only a river separated the Viet Cong from the fire support base. Detecting a nearby enemy position, Sgt. Davis seized a machine gun and provided covering fire for his gun crew, as they attempted to bring direct artillery fire on the enemy. Despite his efforts, an enemy recoilless rifle round scored a direct hit upon the artillery piece. The resultant blast hurled the gun crew from their weapon and blew Sgt. Davis into a foxhole. He struggled to his feet and returned to the howitzer, which was burning furiously. Ignoring repeated warning to seek cover, Sgt. Davis rammed a shell into the gun. Disregarding a withering hail of enemy fire directed against his position, he aimed and fired the howitzer which rolled backward, knocking Sgt. Davis violently to the ground. Undaunted, he returned to the weapon to fire again when an enemy mortar round exploded within 20 meters of his position, injured him painfully. Nevertheless, Sgt. Davis loaded the artillery piece, aimed and fired. Again he was knocked down by the recoil. In complete disregard for his safety, Sgt. Davis loaded and fired 3 more shells into the enemy. Disregarding his extensive injuries and his inability to swim, Sgt. Davis picked up an air mattress and struck out across the deep river to rescue 3 wounded comrades on the far side. Upon reaching the 3 wounded men, he stood upright and fired into the dense vegetation to prevent the Viet Cong from advancing. While the most seriously wounded soldier was helped across the river, Sgt. Davis protected the 2 remaining casualties until he could pull them across the river to the fire support base. Though suffering from painful wounds, he refused medical attention, joining another howitzer crew which fired at the large Viet Cong force until it broke contact and fled, Sgt. Davis’ extraordinary heroism, at the risk of his life, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.