I had the honor of listening to Medal of Honor recipient Sammy L. Davis as he addressed the Saint Viator High School Veterans Day Assembly last week. In his down-home style, Sammy shared his military experiences and told his special "Shenandoah story." Sammy played "Shenandoah" on the harmonica for his sergeant while they were in Vietnam. That tune brought them together as friends. Sadly, Sammy's sergeant was killed in action. Sammy brought out his harmonica and played Shenandoah for the students.
Then Sammy spoke of the night before the dedication of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in 1982. Sammy and many veterans were "camped out" in the woods near the wall. Sometime around 2 a.m., Sammy went to the wall where his sergeant's name is inscribed and began playing Shenandoah. He touched the name and said "This is to heal your heart and soul." He was alone when he started playing. At the finish, he looked up and was surrounded by hundreds of veterans -- all standing in silence.
Sammy's talk included his struggle with PTSD. When he invited questions, a young girl took the microphone. In front of her entire school, she had the courage to speak about her own PTSD from a childhood trauma. She said it did not compare to Sammy's experience, but she was inspired by his message of hope. Sammy told her that her experience was no less than his. Then he came down from the stage and gave her a big hug. What could not be seen easily … he took out his harmonica and gave it to her. You could just hear him say, "Play this to heal your heart and soul." She went back to her seat clutching the harmonica. The entire assembly erupted in ovation.
All of us present will remember Sammy and his kindness -- always.
Greg Padovani, Chairman
Veterans Memorial Committee of Arlington Heights