By Jonathan Williams
Times West Virginian
Forty years ago, Maj. George Paris Davis III saved a man’s life in Vietnam.
On Tuesday, he was finally recognized for his valor and humanity.
Congressman David McKinley presented Davis with the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Bronze Star in a surprise ceremony at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 7048 in Fairmont, recognizing his service to his country and bravery in the face of possible disaster.
“It’s always an honor to be recognized for anything in the military,” Davis said. “We don’t do things for medals.”
On Jan. 14, 1973, two weeks before the ceasefire between the United States and South and North Vietnam, Davis was tasked with transporting a South Vietnamese soldier to the hospital for surgery.
That in itself wasn’t particularly significant. What stood out was the man’s injury — he had a “a 40 millimeter grenade round lodged in his neck,” Davis said, and the round was live.
Nobody wanted to move him for fear the grenade would explode, he said. However, it was clear the man needed medical attention, so Davis and his company loaded the soldier on a “Huey” helicopter.
“We had to lay him right over the fuel tank in the Huey,” he said. They used sandbags to keep him still, but they all knew that if the round went off, the chopper would have become “a flaming fireball to the ground.”
The grenade fortunately did not go off and the man lived to tell the tale, though it was an uphill battle.
“They operated from behind a steel enclosure with a glass in it,” Davis said. That way, if the round exploded, the surgeon would only lose his hands, not his life.