A Vietnam War veteran who now lives in Fairfax County was awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House today (Friday) — a recognition that supporters believe is nearly six decades overdue.
Retired Army Col. Paris Davis learned last month that he would receive the U.S. military’s highest honor for his actions in a battle against North Vietnamese forces on June 17-18, 1965, when he led an assault and saved multiple fellow soldiers despite being wounded.
The call from President Joe Biden on Feb. 13 “prompted a wave of memories of the men and women I served with in Vietnam,” Davis said in a statement.
“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.”
Recounting Davis’s heroic acts, the U.S. Army says his tactical leadership of American Special Forces and an inexperienced South Vietnamese company allowed them to surprise a large North Vietnamese force near Bong Son.
At the time, Davis was a detachment commander in the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces — one of the first Black officers to lead a Special Forces team in combat.
In Bình Định province, Davis and his men were tasked with training a force of local volunteers. On June 18, 1965, he commanded a team of inexperienced South Vietnamese, along with Special Forces Soldiers, against a superior enemy force.
Over the course of two days, Davis selflessly led a charge to neutralize enemy emplacements, called for precision artillery fire, engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the enemy, and prevented the capture of three American soldiers (Robert Brown, John Reinberg, and Billy Waugh) while saving their lives with a medical extraction.
Davis sustained multiple gunshot and grenade fragment wounds during the 19-hour battle and refused to leave the battlefield until his men were safely removed.
For that battle and other actions during his two tours in Vietnam, including one incident where he rescued a soldier stuck in an overturned, burning fuel truck, Davis has also received the Silver Star, the Soldier’s Medal for heroism, a Purple Heart and other military honors.
The Medal of Honor, however, took longer to arrive. Though Davis’s commanding officer nominated him for the award immediately after the battle of Bong Son, the paperwork allegedly got lost not once, but twice.
Oath Keepers Member at Capitol Attack Pleads Guilty — “On Jan. 5, 2021…[William Todd Wilson] drove to a hotel in Tysons Corner in Virginia with an AR-15-style rifle, a 9mm pistol, about 200 rounds of ammunition, body armor, pepper spray and a large walking stick ‘intended for use as a weapon,’ according to court records filed Wednesday.” [The Washington Post]
FCPD Seeks Help Finding Eyeglass Thieves — Fairfax County police are investigating a “smash-and-grab” larceny that occurred at My Eye Dr (6307 Richmond Highway) in Belle Haven on April 19. The suspects allegedly stole over $20,000 of eyeglass frames. Similar thefts have been reported across the D.C. area in recent months, including at a store in McLean. [FCPD]
Reston Startup Raises $9M — “Hubble Technology Inc., an early-stage cybersecurity startup based in Reston, has raised a $9 million seed round to grow its business…Hubble said in an announcement the new funding will be used to grow its D.C.-area engineering team to scale the business and meet increasing demand.” [Washington Business Journal]
Track Work to Disrupt Metro’s Orange Line Service — “During the weekends of May 7-8 and 15-16, Orange Line service will end at Stadium-Armory. The free shuttle buses offered on the Orange Line will replicate the service customers can expect to see this summer during weekdays.” [WMATA]
Fairfax Man Found Guilty After Allegedly Driving 103 MPH — “A Loudoun County jury on Wednesday returned a finding of guilt against a Fairfax man for reckless driving, a class 1 misdemeanor, by speed and recommended the maximum fine allowed under law of $2,500, according to a May 4 release from the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney.” [Loudoun Times-Mirror]
Military Veteran and Spouse Job Fair Coming — “The Veteran and Military Spouse Career Fair will be held in person from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on May 11 at the National Museum of the United States Army…A virtual career fair will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on May 12 through online meeting portal Brazen. The event is free to attend.” [Patch]
Plan for Housing Voucher Program Released — The Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority has released its draft fiscal year 2023 Moving to Work Plan, which outlines how the county will administer its housing choice vouchers and other affordable housing programs. The plan is now open for written comments, and there will be a public hearing on May 19. [Housing and Community Development]
It’s Friday — Rain throughout the day. High of 64 and low of 56. Sunrise at 6:06 am and sunset at 8:07 pm. [Weather.gov]
It took approximately half an hour for the police motorcade escorting the body of Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss to travel the 20-mile stretch of I-66 from Gainesville to the I-495 interchange in Merrifield.
Along the way, the procession encountered dozens of Fairfax County police officers, firefighters, and residents who gathered on and under overpasses yesterday (Friday) afternoon to honor Knauss, one of 13 American servicemembers killed in the Aug. 26 bombing at Kabul’s airport during the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Chief Davis alongside fellow officers and our @ffxfirerescue partners paid our respects for U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss. Thank you for your service to our Country. pic.twitter.com/VlzJm0AZZm
— Fairfax County Police (@FairfaxCountyPD) September 16, 2021
A Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient, the 23-year-old Knauss grew up in Corryton, Tennessee, a village about 20 miles northeast of Knoxville, and joined the Army right out of high school. He was on his second deployment to Afghanistan after previously serving there for nine months, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.
Killing at least 170 Afghan civilians, the attack on Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport occurred in the midst of a frenzied effort to evacuate thousands of people seeking to leave the country ahead of the U.S. military’s Aug. 30 departure deadline as the Taliban took control.
The Fairfax County Police Department announced Thursday morning that a funeral procession for Knauss would pass through the county after 3 p.m., advising community members to go to an overpass along the route from I-66 East to I-495 South if they wanted to pay their respects.
Accompanied by several police cruisers and motorcycles, the hearse entered from Prince William County around 3:20 p.m. and traveled east through Fairfax before turning south in the Merrifield area. Upon reaching Springfield, the procession took I-395 North on its way to Arlington National Cemetery.
The motorcade was expected to be overseen by a pair of helicopters, but they were apparently shelved as a late afternoon downpour significantly reduced visibility.
About a dozen people from different backgrounds assembled along the Gallows Road overpass by the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station, undeterred by the rain that drenched the area around 3:45 p.m., just as the motorcade passed.
For Oakton resident Dennis Greza, the decision to watch the procession came from a personal place, spurred by seeing his brother serve in the Air Force. He said he wanted to pay respect to Knauss for making the “ultimate sacrifice.”
The service members killed in the Kabul airport bombing included 11 Marines and one member of the Navy, along with Knauss as the only Army casualty.
Elsewhere along I-66, Fairfax County police officers stood at attention, and American flags hoisted by fire engines greeted the funeral procession.
Yesterday, @ChiefJohnButler, a number of #FCFRD stations/units, & partners @FairfaxCountyPD went to several overpasses to pay our respects as procession escorting body of fallen @USArmy Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss passed through Fairfax County. We honor his sacrifice and service.🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/9w0HQnypQP
— Fairfax County Fire/Rescue (@ffxfirerescue) September 17, 2021
In a news release sent out at 4:16 p.m., Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner announced that they will cosponsor a bipartisan bill to award all 13 servicemembers a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the legislature.
“We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the 13 servicemembers who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the last days of the war in Afghanistan,” Warner and Kaine said in a joint statement. “We must never forget their bravery. Honoring them with the Congressional Gold Medal is one way to remember their heroic service to our nation.”
Jay Westcott contributed to this report.