December 9, 2001

Purple Heart sought for Davis

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

   If the Tennessee Military Order of the Purple Heart has anything to do with it, Jefferson Donald Davis, 39, of Watauga will become a recipient of the symbol of merit.
   Michael "Doc" Murphy was a Corpsman during the Vietnam War, the equivalent of an Army medic -- Davis's role in the military. Murphy, who lives just over the hill from the Davis family, is junior vice commander of the area chapter of the Purple Heart. Murphy's organization wants to ensure that "our brother here in Northeast Tennessee is eligible."
   As in all wars, there are instances where people are killed by friendly fire. "If they were engaged with the enemy, they were still considered Purple Heart recipients. If there was a fire exchanged between his unit and a Taliban unit or an opposition unit, and they were hit, regardless of whether they were hit by us or they were hit by them, he would be eligible for the Purple Heart," Murphy said.
   "I can remember on the fields of fire in Vietnam -- what's called the 'fog of war' -- you couldn't tell who was who, you didn't know what was going on, you called in for fire support. I can remember seeing artillery rounds flying through the air. And then they hit. I went out on the battlefield and I found all of these dead men," Murphy said.
   "Navy Corpsmen and Army medics, which Davis was a medic, are the only ones who can award someone with a Purple Heart. But he is gone. When in doubt, the benefit of doubt goes to the veteran. If they were taking enemy fire -- we don't know that yet, the investigation reports aren't out -- and a bomb came in and it came in too close, if somebody can explain to me whether the guy received a bullet or not, I want to hear it."
   If Davis is presented the award posthumously, his family would be eligible for scholarships and 80 percent discounts on college tuition and fees. "Along with that there are a lot of extra benefits other than what the government might give them," Murphy said. "We are going to fight to see that he gets a Purple Heart."