When Macon’s Rodney Davis threw himself on a grenade in Vietnam to save other Marines, the 25-year-old left behind daughters too young to have memories of him.
Tuesday, about 44 years since his death, Davis was remembered by his family members and Bibb County officials at the unveiling of a sign marking the “Sgt. Rodney Maxwell Davis Memorial Interchange” at Interstates 75 and 475.
About 20 members of Davis’ family, including three of his grandchildren, attended the dedication to Davis, who is Bibb County’s only Medal of Honor recipient.
Samantha Steen, who was born a year before Davis died in 1967, said she learned of her father through stories she heard from her mother, grandmother, aunts and uncles. Some of those stories were shared at Tuesday’s ceremony at New Elim Baptist Church in south Bibb County.
“It shows the people in this world, in this town, in this state want to remember him and the sacrifice,” Steen said.
Gordon Davis finds himself telling stories of his little brother, who as a child played in the cemetery where he’s now buried.
“When you have been blessed and know you’ve been blessed, you’ve got to share that with the world,” Gordon Davis said.
Lt. Col. Michael Johnson, who commands the Marine detachment at Robins Air Force Base, described Rodney Davis as an American hero. He read part of the Medal of Honor citation -- “Sergeant Davis moved from man to man shouting words of encouragement to each of them while firing and throwing grenades at the enemy” -- and said that effort showed Davis’ leadership.
“Individuals like Sgt. Davis are what makes this country great,” Johnson said.
State Rep. Nikki Randall, D-Macon, who worked with other legislators and Bibb County commissioners to get the interchange named for Davis, turned to Davis’ family.
“We can’t even express the gratitude to the life you all lost,” she said.
Bibb County Commissioner Joe Allen said the event was held on the birthday of Davis’ mother, who pushed him into becoming the man he was, someone the whole community is proud of.
“We should honor those that have fallen, those who have contributed,” Allen said. “We’re a military community. We should stand with our military.”
Retired Marine Lt. John Brackeen told The Telegraph in 2002 that he’d only met Davis a couple of days before he was killed. Davis spoke of his family, including his wife, Judy, and his home. Days later, the Marines were side-by-side as grenades fell around and in their trench. Others bolted, but Davis dove on a grenade. The blast lifted him four or five feet off the ground.
“I’ve thought about Rodney a lot,” Brackeen said in 2002. “If he hadn’t taken that dive, I’d be dead. I don’t think he or me would have made it out.”
County Commission Chairman Sam Hart said commissioners and legislators already are working to tweak the signs for the interchange, so they will show Davis was a Medal of Honor recipient.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.