Why we celebrate Memorial Day

Rodney Maxwell Davis

On September 6, 1967, United States Marine Sgt. Rodney Maxwell Davis was serving as right guide of the 2d Platoon, Company B, in action against enemy forces in Vietnam’s Quang Nam Province.

Elements of the 2d Platoon were pinned down by a numerically superior force of attacking North Vietnamese Army regulars. Remnants of the platoon were located in a trench line where Sgt. Davis was directing the fire of his men in an attempt to repel the enemy attack.

Disregarding the enemy hand grenades and high volume of small-arms and mortar fire, Sgt. Davis moved from man to man shouting words of encouragement to each of them while firing and throwing grenades at the onrushing enemy.

When an enemy grenade landed in the trench in the midst of his men, Sgt. Davis realizing the gravity of the situation, and in a final valiant act of complete self-sacrifice, instantly threw himself upon the grenade, absorbing with his body the full and terrific force of the explosion.

Through his extraordinary initiative and inspiring valor in the face of certain death, Sgt. Davis saved his comrades from injury and loss of life, enabling his platoon to hold its vital position.

On March 29, 1969, Rodney M. Davis was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for conspicuous bravery and the sacrifice of his own life to save his fellow Marines, upholding the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Service.

In a nation where some prioritize selfish interest over the greater good, stories like these seem far-fetched and fictional. But every one who ever raised a right hand and pledged to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” in military service know of comrades who willingly sacrificed safety, comfort so that the American experiment in “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

This Memorial Day, we remember all who gave their lives for that dream. When we see men and women in uniform, as we note the passing of heroes from The Greatest Generation, when we vote, may we never forget the sacrifices others have made for the freedoms we too often take for granted… and model their behavior.