Tuesday, March 19, 2013

TFH 3/19: HM2 David R. Ray, USN

David Robert Ray, known familiarly as "Bobby", was born on February 14, 1945 in McMinnville, Tennessee. He graduated from City High School in his hometown in 1963, and also attended the University of Tennessee from 1963-1966. On March 28, 1966, Bobby Ray volunteered to enlist in the United States Navy. After recruit training in San Diego, he received further training as a hospital corpsman.

Through May of 1968, Ray served at Long Beach, California both aboard the hospital ship USS Haven (AH-12), moored as a static hospital platform, and at the Naval Hospital. In that month, he volunteered for corpsman duty with the United States Marine Corps and was sent to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton for field medical training. After completing the course, he was deployed to Vietnam with a Marine unit at war.

Corpsman Ray was posted to Battery D, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment - an artillery unit. On March 19, 1969, the fire base that D/2/11 held was attacked by large enemy force that threatened and eventually penetrated the base's perimeter. The early seconds of the attack left many Marines wounded, and Ray leapt into action caring for them.

Ray himself was wounded multiple times, refused care for himself, and continued to risk his life to render aid to his stricken comrades. While caring for one of the wounded, he fought off two enemy soldiers, killing one and wounding the other. Finally, as his strength was waning and an enemy grenade landed nearby, Bobby Ray covered a wounded Marine with his own body and shielded him from the devastating blast. He was posthumously decorated with the Medal of Honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for the Vietnam War (M-Z):


Rank and organization: Hospital Corpsman Second Class, U.S. Navy, 2d Battalion, 11th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein), FMF. Place and date: Quang Nam Province, Republic of Vietnam, 19 March 1969. Entered service at: Nashville, Tenn. Born: 14 February 1945, McMinnville, Tenn. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a HC2c. with Battery D, 2d Battalion, at Phu Loc 6, near An Hoa. During the early morning hours, an estimated battalion-sized enemy force launched a determined assault against the battery's position, and succeeded in effecting a penetration of the barbed-wire perimeter. The initial burst of enemy fire caused numerous casualties among the marines who had immediately manned their howitzers during the rocket and mortar attack. Undaunted by the intense hostile fire, HC2c. Ray moved from parapet to parapet, rendering emergency medical treatment to the wounded. Although seriously wounded himself while administering first aid to a marine casualty, he refused medical aid and continued his lifesaving efforts. While he was bandaging and attempting to comfort another wounded marine, HC2c. Ray was forced to battle 2 enemy soldiers who attacked his position, personally killing 1 and wounding the other. Rapidly losing his strength as a result of his severe wounds, he nonetheless managed to move through the hail of enemy fire to other casualties. Once again, he was faced with the intense fire of oncoming enemy troops and, despite the grave personal danger and insurmountable odds, succeeded in treating the wounded and holding off the enemy until he ran out of ammunition, at which time he sustained fatal wounds. HC2c. Ray's final act of heroism was to protect the patient he was treating. He threw himself upon the wounded marine, thus saving the man's life when an enemy grenade exploded nearby. By his determined and persevering actions, courageous spirit, and selfless devotion to the welfare of his marine comrades, HC2c. Ray served to inspire the men of Battery D to heroic efforts in defeating the enemy. His conduct throughout was in keeping with the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Bobby Ray rests in peace at the Mountain View Cemetery in McMinnville. The stretch of highway 70S that runs near the cemetery is known as the "Bobby Ray Highway". His name appears on Panel 29W, Line 82 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.

From November 19, 1977 until February 28, 2002, the Spruance-class destroyer USS David R. Ray (DD-971) defended America on the high seas. The only ship so far named for this heroic corpsman was sunk as a live-fire target on July 11, 2008.

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