Former Dayton man advocated for Medal of Honor recipient

One of the first Black officers to lead a Special Forces team in combat will receive the nation’s highest award for bravery

Retired Army Col. Paris Davis, an Ohio native, is set to receive the Medal of Honor Friday in the Oval Office for his service in the Vietnam War — and a former Dayton man played a supporting role in the saga.

With the help of Davis allies and friends, former Daytonian (and Green Beret) Ron Deis, 79, helped advance a recommendation for the award after two recommendations earlier for Davis were, as Deis put it in an interview, “mysteriously lost.”

One of the first Black officers to lead a Special Forces team in combat will receive the nation’s highest award for bravery in battle some 56 years after his former commanding officer first recommended him for the honor.

The Friday ceremony for Davis will be culmination of nine years of work for Deis and other friends who advocated for him. “I can’t wait to see him in Washington, D.C.,” Deis said.

“Thank God it’s being presented before Col. Davis dies,” he added. “He’s 84 years old.”

“I suspect there are going to be a few tears,” he said.

Cleveland native Davis, 83, was Deis’ commanding officer in the Vietnam war. Deis was raised in Dayton, but left the Gem City permanently in 1973 and now lives in Alaska. His sister, Carol Stine, 85, lives in West Carrollton.

Davis, then an Army captain, was recommended for the Medal of Honor by his commanding officer for distinguishing himself on a June 1965 morning during a pre-dawn raid on a North Vietnamese army camp in Bong Son, the Associated Press reported. Every American there was wounded during a major enemy counterattack.

Deis was not part of the team on the ground but was watching from a Cessna “Bird Dog” spotter plane, helping to coordinate the attack, he said. The plane, Deis recounted, was shot down during the action.

Davis repeatedly ran into an open rice paddy to rescue each member of his team, using his pinkie finger to fire his rifle after his hand was shattered by an enemy grenade, according to the Army Times. His entire team survived.

“He refused the leave the battlefield until he had recovered all of his Special Forces team who were wounded on the battlefield. There were four of them, plus him,” Deis said.

Another member of that A-team that day was Robert Brown, from Troy, Deis said. Brown died five years later.

The B-team commander first recommended Davis for a Medal of Honor, but that recommendation was lost, as was a follow-up recommendation a few years after that, Deis said.

Deis said he suspected that the first two nominations were lost or buried in Pentagon bureaucracy due to racism.

“We feel on the team it was due because he’s Black,” Deis said of Davis. “He was one of the first A-team leaders who was Black, back in 1965, Special Forces. Through a lot of perseverance and documentation, he is finally getting the recognition he deserves.”

“Then a group of us, nine years ago, started a third recommendation,” he said. “And we persisted. Then last week, the president approved (former) Capt. Davis’ Medal of Honor.”

There are three surviving members of that battle’s A-Team who will join Davis at the Oval Office, Deis said.

It is “extremely difficult” to advance a recommendation for the Medal of Honor, Deis said. “It’s a fascinating story of perseverance.”

“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,” the family of Davis said in a Feb. 13 statement.

“As I anticipate receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor, 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,” Davis said in the statement. “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.”

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