USS Rodney M Davis Celebrates Namesake's Birthday 

140407-N-HB597-5731 SAN DIEGO (April 7, 2014) - Randy Leedom (left) and Jim Dougherty (center left) exchange stories with Operations Specialist 2nd Class Fagamutu Uti (center right) and Quartermaster 3rd Class Christopher Jurado (right) about Sgt. Rodney M. Davis in Vietnam during the celebration of his 72nd birthday. (U.S. Navy photo by Sonar Technician Surface 2nd Class Caleb Hutchinson/Released)
USS Rodney M. Davis Celebrates Namesake’s Birthday 
By Lt. j.g. Daniel Denton, USS Rodney M. Davis Public Affairs 
SAN DIEGO – The crew of USS Rodney M. Davis (FFG 60) celebrated the 72nd birthday of Sgt. Rodney M. Davis April 7 with Marines from Camp Pendleton and veterans from the 1/5 Vietnam Veterans Association.

The ship, homeported in Everett, Wash., was in San Diego preparing for the Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV), a comprehensive material inspection conducted every five years.

The ceremony commenced with a flag presentation by the active duty Marines from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Regiment (1/5), 1st Marine Division, Davis’ unit during the Vietnam War.

Staff Sgt. Cory Canterbury of Mount Vernon, Ky., Sgt. Randall Carey of Fort Collins, Colo., Cpl. Gregor Phillips of Lancaster, Pa., and Cpl. Bryson Taylor of Quincy, Calif., presented a 1/5 Bravo Company flag to the Cmdr. Todd Whalen, the ship’s commanding officer on behalf of all 1/5 Bravo Company Marines in memory of Davis.

Davis was posthumously awarded the nation's highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, for heroism during the Vietnam War. He was the 2nd Platoon Guide with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, during Operation Swift when his unit came under attack.

Elements of his platoon were pinned down, so he moved from man to man shouting words of encouragement while firing at the onrushing enemy. When an enemy grenade landed in the trench, he threw himself upon the grenade, sacrificing his life for his fellow Marines.

Several 1/5 veterans who served with Davis travelled from across the country to be on hand for the ceremony.

Randy Leedom, a survivor of the grenade blast, and Jim Dougherty, who served as 1st Platoon Right Guide during Operation Swift, addressed the crew during the ceremony.

“I barely knew Sgt. Davis, but without his sacrifice, I would not be standing here today,” said Leedom.

His fellow Marine agreed.

“Sgt. Davis did not have to be in Vietnam that day, he volunteered for his tour of duty,” said Dougherty. “He told his family that he could not let his friends and fellow Marines fight a war that he was not willing to fight.”

The ship’s commanding officer closed the ceremony by telling the crew to remember Davis during the upcoming deployment.

“The best way to celebrate Sgt. Davis’s legacy is to demonstrate our combat readiness and execute the mission,” said Whalen.

Following the ceremony, the ship’s guests shared cake and memories of Davis with Sailors on the flight deck.

“It was an eye-opening experience to shake hands with men who served with our ship’s namesake, and it gave me a higher sense of duty,” said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Robert Gabales of Greensboro, N.C.

Other shipmates also agreed.

“I enjoyed the unique experience of past and present brought together by one man, Rodney M. Davis,” said Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class Robert Nicholas of Barnhart, Mo. “His story was brought to life by the men who served with him.”

The crew of Rodney M. Davis recently returned to Everett, Wash., following two months of training and maintenance in San Diego.
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