Your Stories of CMOH awardees you have met.


BNDN - Been Nowhere Done Nothing
Verified Military
Jul 1, 2007
In a van, down by the river...
I will never forget this meeting and the man behind this award.

Please share your stories of a time you met a Congressional Medal Of Honor recipient.

Here's mine:
While a private at Ft Lewis, I (an my now ex)met SGM Cavaiani at a Dennys by the McChord Exit off I-5.

I saw his awards (he was in Class A's) as I walked by, and I saw a tiny little blue ribbon.

As I sat down with my wife, I had to make sure, so I did a fly-by to the latrine, and returned past him and it was as I thought.

I then set out trying to explain to my wife the significance of the award.

And I just had to say something, so I got up, and walked over to him (he was sitting by himself) and said, "Excuse me Sergeant Major, I don't mean to interrupt, but I just wanted to say thank you for everything you did, and thank you for your service."

He said, "Oh, it wasn't anything special, but thank you, not too many young folks seem to notice. Are you stationed at the base?"

I say, "Yes I am Sergeant Major, in the 9th ID headquarters, as a medic."

"That's good, good luck to you, and thanks again." He says.

I go back to the table, and I am like some groupie that just saw Elvis, and I am still talking to my wife about the Honor of the Award, when he walks up to us about ten minutes later.

I try to stand, from behind the booth table, and say, "Hello again, Sergeant Major, I'd like to introduce my wife.. XXXX XXXXXX."

Nice to meet you.

We talk for a couple more minutes, and than he says, "I've got to go now, but I wanted to say thanks again, and ... (Get this.. It floored me at the time) your meal is paid for." As he starts to turn I say thank you, and he turns back and says, "Oh, yeah... the tip is covered too. Good Bye."

As soon as I got to work Monday, I ran over to Grandstaff Library and looked up his Award. Here it is:

Rank and organization: Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army, Vietnam Training Advisory Group, Republic of Vietnam. Place and date: Republic of Vietnam, 4 and 5 June 1971. Entered service at: Fresno, Calif. Born: 2 August 1943, Royston, England.
S/Sgt. Cavaiani distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in action in the Republic of Vietnam on 4 and 5 June 1971 while serving as a platoon leader to a security platoon providing security for an isolated radio relay site located within enemy-held territory. On the morning of 4 June 1971, the entire camp came under an intense barrage of enemy small arms, automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenade and mortar fire from a superior size enemy force. S/Sgt. Cavaiani acted with complete disregard for his personal safety as he repeatedly exposed himself to heavy enemy fire in order to move about the camp's perimeter directing the platoon's fire and rallying the platoon in a desperate fight for survival. S/Sgt. Cavaiani also returned heavy suppressive fire upon the assaulting enemy force during this period with a variety of weapons. When the entire platoon was to be evacuated, S/Sgt. Cavaiani unhesitatingly volunteered to remain on the ground and direct the helicopters into the landing zone. S/Sgt. Cavaiani was able to direct the first 3 helicopters in evacuating a major portion of the platoon. Due to intense increase in enemy fire, S/Sgt. Cavaiani was forced to remain at the camp overnight where he calmly directed the remaining platoon members in strengthening their defenses. On the morning of S June, a heavy ground fog restricted visibility. The superior size enemy force launched a major ground attack in an attempt to completely annihilate the remaining small force. The enemy force advanced in 2 ranks, first firing a heavy volume of small arms automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade fire while the second rank continuously threw a steady barrage of hand grenades at the beleaguered force. S/Sgt. Cavaiani returned a heavy barrage of small arms and hand grenade fire on the assaulting enemy force but was unable to slow them down. He ordered the remaining platoon members to attempt to escape while he provided them with cover fire. With 1 last courageous exertion, S/Sgt. Cavaiani recovered a machinegun, stood up, completely exposing himself to the heavy enemy fire directed at him, and began firing the machinegun in a sweeping motion along the 2 ranks of advancing enemy soldiers. Through S/Sgt. Cavaiani's valiant efforts with complete disregard for his safety, the majority of the remaining platoon members were able to escape. While inflicting severe losses on the advancing enemy force, S/Sgt. Cavaiani was wounded numerous times. S/Sgt. Cavaiani's conspicuous gallantry, extraordinary heroism and intrepidity at the risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.
Outstanding story.

After I divorced, I started dating a man stationed at Ft. Rucker- former 11B, current OH-58D IP. I spent a lot of time around him and his friends, who all went to the Legion a mile from his house.

There, I met Mike Novosel. He was in the process of writing his book, Dustoff Six, at the time and spent so much time at the shop as to become a permanent fixture. I sat there for hours whenever I'd visit the ex, listening to him talk about his wife and son, stories about Vietnam, the pros and cons of current aircraft, the addictive nature of coffee. He was such a little man with an enormous personality and heart. I knew him for about 5 years or so before he passed, which was an amazingly black day.

When he published his book, he singed a copy for me. It sits on my nightstand next to my bed at all times. I think I've read it a dozen times now.
I know SFC. Sammy L. Davis (Ret.) MOH.

He's a GREAT man...

His website



Sammy L. Davis (born November 1, 1946) is an American soldier and a recipient of the Medal of Honor, for valorous conduct while serving in the United States Army during the Vietnam War.

In November 1967, his unit was west of Cai Lay when they fell under heavy mortar attack by the Viet Cong as around 15,000 VC swarmed the area. Upon detecting an enemy position, Davis manned a machine gun to give his comrades covering fire so they could fire artillery in response. Davis was wounded, but ignored warnings to take cover, taking over the unit's burning howitzer and firing several shells himself. He also disregarded his inability to swim, crossing a river on an air mattress to help rescue three wounded American soldiers. He ultimately found his way to another howitzer site to continue fighting the VC attack until they fled. He received the Medal of Honor the following year.

Footage of Davis' award ceremony was later used in the 1994 movie Forrest Gump, with actor Tom Hanks head superimposed over that of Davis'

Wiki Link on SLD MOH
Walking the battlespace at Camp Victory where SFC Paul Smith earned the first MOH of the current war. That's me in the back looking off to my left where Iraqis came from during the battle.
Walking the battlespace at Camp Victory where SFC Paul Smith earned the first MOH of the current war. That's me in the back looking off to my left where Iraqis came from during the battle.

I'm not the big guy in the middle....
SGM Cavaiani was at 10th SFG - I met him a few times at Devens. so was Drew Dix. (then) MAJ Bob Howard was one of my Instructors at the Q. I served with Gary Gordon and Randy Shugart. I was in a few parades with Roy Benavides. I've had a few beers with the Plasticman. Although they never got the MOH, Nick Rowe was also one of my instructors at the Q, as was Bo Gritz.

I know I'm leaving more than a few out on my list.

There are a few stories, especially last year's drinking stories with SGM C - my liver still hasn't recovered.
I got to briefly meet MSG Benavidez before he passed. A very quiet and humble man.

A good friend worked with Franklin Miller. He too was reported to be quite humble about it all.

Blue Skies, Gentlemen.
I met Tom Norris twice, both times at a SEAL Warrior fundraiser.
I met Mike Thornton a few times with my ex while Mr. Thornton was still active duty and then again last winter at the fundraiser. It was a HUGE honor. They couldn't have been more gracious and kind to my children and I.

As many of you know, Mr. Thornton is the only man ever to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for saving a man that had already been awarded the CMoH.


Rank and organization: Petty Officer, U.S. Navy, Navy Advisory Group. Place and date: Republic of Vietnam, 31 October 1972. Entered service at: Spartanburg, S.C. Born: 23 March 1949, Greenville, S.C.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while participating in a daring operation against enemy forces. PO Thornton, as Assistant U.S. Navy Advisor, along with a U.S. Navy lieutenant serving as Senior Advisor, accompanied a 3-man Vietnamese Navy SEAL patrol on an intelligence gathering and prisoner capture operation against an enemy-occupied naval river base. Launched from a Vietnamese Navy junk in a rubber boat, the patrol reached land and was continuing on foot toward its objective when it suddenly came under heavy fire from a numerically superior force. The patrol called in naval gunfire support and then engaged the enemy in a fierce firefight, accounting for many enemy casualties before moving back to the waterline to prevent encirclement. Upon learning that the Senior Advisor had been hit by enemy fire and was believed to be dead, PO Thornton returned through a hail of fire to the lieutenant's last position; quickly disposed of 2 enemy soldiers about to overrun the position, and succeeded in removing the seriously wounded and unconscious Senior Naval Advisor to the water's edge. He then inflated the lieutenant's lifejacket and towed him seaward for approximately 2 hours until picked up by support craft. By his extraordinary courage and perseverance, PO Thornton was directly responsible for saving the life of his superior officer and enabling the safe extraction of all patrol members, thereby upholding the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.


Rank and organization: Lieutenant, U.S. Navy, SEAL Advisor, Strategic Technical Directorate Assistance Team, Headquarters, U.S. Military Assistance Command. Place and date: Quang Tri Province, Republic of Vietnam, 10 to 13 April 1972. Entered service at: Silver Spring, Md. Born: 14 January 1944, Jacksonville, Fla.

Lt. Norris completed an unprecedented ground rescue of 2 downed pilots deep within heavily controlled enemy territory in Quang Tri Province. Lt. Norris, on the night of 10 April, led a 5-man patrol through 2,000 meters of heavily controlled enemy territory, located 1 of the downed pilots at daybreak, and returned to the Forward Operating Base (FOB). On 11 April, after a devastating mortar and rocket attack on the small FOB, Lt. Norris led a 3-man team on 2 unsuccessful rescue attempts for the second pilot. On the afternoon of the 12th, a forward air controller located the pilot and notified Lt. Norris. Dressed in fishermen disguises and using a sampan, Lt. Norris and 1 Vietnamese traveled throughout that night and found the injured pilot at dawn. Covering the pilot with bamboo and vegetation, they began the return journey, successfully evading a North Vietnamese patrol. Approaching the FOB, they came under heavy machinegun fire. Lt. Norris called in an air strike which provided suppression fire and a smoke screen, allowing the rescue party to reach the FOB. By his outstanding display of decisive leadership, undaunted courage, and selfless dedication in the face of extreme danger, Lt. Norris enhanced the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
This man was a Company Commander when I was in bootcamp. It wasn't until years later I learned how he earned the MOH and it sent goose bumps up my back every time I read his citation.

Donald E. Ballard HM2
Rank and organization: Hospital Corpsman Second Class, U.S. Navy, Company M, 3d Battalion, 4th Marines, 3d Marine Division. Place and date: Quang Tri Province, Republic of Vietnam, 16 May 1968. Entered service at: Kansas City, Mo. Born: 5 December 1945, Kansas City, Mo.


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life and beyond the call of duty while serving as a HC2c. with Company M, in connection with operations against enemy aggressor forces. During the afternoon hours, Company M was moving to join the remainder of the 3d Battalion in Quang Tri Province. After treating and evacuating 2 heat casualties, HC2c. Ballard was returning to his platoon from the evacuation landing zone when the company was ambushed by a North Vietnamese Army unit employing automatic weapons and mortars, and sustained numerous casualties. Observing a wounded marine, HC2c. Ballard unhesitatingly moved across the fire swept terrain to the injured man and swiftly rendered medical assistance to his comrade. HC2c. Ballard then directed 4 marines to carry the casualty to a position of relative safety. As the 4 men prepared to move the wounded marine, an enemy soldier suddenly left his concealed position and, after hurling a hand grenade which landed near the casualty, commenced firing upon the small group of men. Instantly shouting a warning to the marines, HC2c. Ballard fearlessly threw himself upon the lethal explosive device to protect his comrades from the deadly blast. When the grenade failed to detonate, he calmly arose from his dangerous position and resolutely continued his determined efforts in treating other marine casualties. HC2c. Ballard's heroic actions and selfless concern for the welfare of his companions served to inspire all who observed him and prevented possible injury or death to his fellow marines. His courage, daring initiative, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of extreme personal danger, sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
Excuse me for adding a second one here. I never met this man but I lived in a barracks named after him. His picture, Medal and citation were displayed in the entrance to the Navy Tech School I attended. I read his citation whenever I stood watch there. His story has stayed with me since I first read it in 1975. Each time I go to the Wall, I find his name. I'm not worthy to call him brother, but his spirit has influenced my life. He will never be forgotten.

Seaman David G. Ouellet, United States Navy, (posthumous), Seaman, U.S. Navy, River Squadron 5, My Tho Detachment 532., Mekong River, Republic of Vietnam, 6 March 1967.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with River Section 532, in combat against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. As the forward machine gunner on River Patrol Boat (PBR) 124, which was on patrol on the Mekong River during the early evening hours of 6 March 1967, Seaman Ouellet observed suspicious activity near the river bank, alerted his Boat Captain, and recommended movement of the boat to the area to investigate. While the PBR was making a high-speed run along the river bank, Seaman Ouellet spotted an incoming enemy grenade falling toward the boat. He immediately left the protected position of his gun mount and ran aft for the full length of the speeding boat, shouting to his fellow crew members to take cover. Observing the Boat Captain standing unprotected on the boat, Seaman Ouellet bounded onto the engine compartment cover, and pushed the Boat Captain down to safety. In the split second that followed the grenade's landing, and in the face of certain death, Seaman Ouellet fearlessly placed himself between the deadly missile and his shipmates, courageously absorbing most of the blast fragments with his own body in order to protect his shipmates from injury and death. His extraordinary heroism and his selfless and courageous actions on behalf of his comrades at the expense of his own life were in the finest tradition of the United States Naval Service.
Roger Donlon

He was the guest speaker at our Dining out. I got tasked by the Company SGM to pick him up at the airport and to be his driver for the weekend. It turned out that he retired from PSF as the Garrision Commander back in the late 80's.

He asked me how did I get "voluntereed" and I told him that the SGM picked me since I was a cop who worked in the same city as the location of the dining out.


Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Army. Place and date: Near Nam Dong, Republic of Vietnam, 6 July 1964. Entered service at: Fort Chaffee, Ark. Born: 30 January 1934, Saugerties, N.Y. G.O. No.: 41, 17 December 1964.
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while defending a U.S. military installation against a fierce attack by hostile forces. Capt. Donlon was serving as the commanding officer of the U.S. Army Special Forces Detachment A-726 at Camp Nam Dong when a reinforced Viet Cong battalion suddenly launched a full-scale, predawn attack on the camp. During the violent battle that ensued, lasting 5 hours and resulting in heavy casualties on both sides, Capt. Donlon directed the defense operations in the midst of an enemy barrage of mortar shells, falling grenades, and extremely heavy gunfire. Upon the initial onslaught, he swiftly marshaled his forces and ordered the removal of the needed ammunition from a blazing building. He then dashed through a hail of small arms and exploding hand grenades to abort a breach of the main gate. En route to this position he detected an enemy demolition team of 3 in the proximity of the main gate and quickly annihilated them. Although exposed to the intense grenade attack, he then succeeded in reaching a 60mm mortar position despite sustaining a severe stomach wound as he was within 5 yards of the gun pit. When he discovered that most of the men in this gunpit were also wounded, he completely disregarded his own injury, directed their withdrawal to a location 30 meters away, and again risked his life by remaining behind and covering the movement with the utmost effectiveness. Noticing that his team sergeant was unable to evacuate the gun pit he crawled toward him and, while dragging the fallen soldier out of the gunpit, an enemy mortar exploded and inflicted a wound in Capt. Donlon's left shoulder. Although suffering from multiple wounds, he carried the abandoned 60mm mortar weapon to a new location 30 meters away where he found 3 wounded defenders. After administering first aid and encouragement to these men, he left the weapon with them, headed toward another position, and retrieved a 57mm recoilless rifle. Then with great courage and coolness under fire, he returned to the abandoned gun pit, evacuated ammunition for the 2 weapons, and while crawling and dragging the urgently needed ammunition, received a third wound on his leg by an enemy hand grenade. Despite his critical physical condition, he again crawled 175 meters to an 81mm mortar position and directed firing operations which protected the seriously threatened east sector of the camp. He then moved to an eastern 60mm mortar position and upon determining that the vicious enemy assault had weakened, crawled back to the gun pit with the 60mm mortar, set it up for defensive operations, and turned it over to 2 defenders with minor wounds. Without hesitation, he left this sheltered position, and moved from position to position around the beleaguered perimeter while hurling hand grenades at the enemy and inspiring his men to superhuman effort. As he bravely continued to move around the perimeter, a mortar shell exploded, wounding him in the face and body. As the long awaited daylight brought defeat to the enemy forces and their retreat back to the jungle leaving behind 54 of their dead, many weapons, and grenades, Capt. Donlon immediately reorganized his defenses and administered first aid to the wounded. His dynamic leadership, fortitude, and valiant efforts inspired not only the American personnel but the friendly Vietnamese defenders as well and resulted in the successful defense of the camp. Capt. Donlon's extraordinary heroism, at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty are in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.