Tuesday, April 12, 2016

TOP STORY >> Davis, Vietnam veteran, dies

 Leader staff writer

Lex Edward (Butch) Davis of Sherwood, a former alderman, Vietnam War veteran, a believer in the city and all around good guy, died on Monday at the age of 71.

He was among the first 15 inductees into the Arkansas Military Veterans Hall of Fame at the Agora Center in Conway and initiated the annual veterans parade in Sherwood, which is now in its sixth year.

“He was an incredible person,” said Marcia Cook, Sherwood Chamber of Commerce director. “Butch was involved in so many aspects of the city. He was a true asset and was always willing to help. We will miss him.”

Betty Barnhardt, director of Keep Sherwood Beautiful, said, “Butch never met someone he could not get along with, never let his handicap stand in the way of getting something done. He was most helpful and encouraging in his support of Keep Sherwood Beautiful. At each event we could count on his assistance taking extra supplies and water to our volunteers. He exemplified what a true friend is...always smiling and laughing.”

Davis, an Army sergeant, almost died in Vietnam in the summer of 1969 in a huge explosion that nearly wiped out his company. He was put on a rescue helicopter along with several dead soldiers heading for the morgue. He’d come to momentarily, hoping the chopper crew didn’t think he was dead.

“When the bomb hit me, it felt like a bell over my head. I knew I was hit. It got my whole left side,” he told The Leader in 2007.

His injuries spread all over his body, including his spinal cord, which wasn’t severed, though. “I was one of the last flown out. I was worried they thought I was dead,” he said.

When it exploded, it killed six and injured 28 G.I.s, along with several South Vietnamese out on patrol with the Americans. “There were enough casualties to fill a couple of helicopters,” Davis remembered.

Once he was in the helicopter, Davis was hoping the chopper crew would realize he was still alive. He’d open his eyes, and then closed them again.

“I couldn’t move,” Davis said. “I blacked out again for a while.”

Fortunately, he woke up in a hospital, and then was flown to another hospital in Japan. He received more treatment at the Veterans Hospital in Richmond, Va. Months of therapy followed. He was finally released in December 1969.

He lived the rest of his life with shrapnel in his neck.

He signed up for the Army when he was 16 — “I lied about my age,” he admitted — and was 24 years old when he was hit, and he’d been in pain for almost 47 years. You can only imagine his injuries — almost his whole body was ripped up, and he seemed disabled along much of his left side — but Davis never complained. He went on to have a long political career advancing Sherwood, the city that he loved.

For his 1969 Vietnam service, Davis earned a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and a Combat Infantryman’s Badge.

He will be known for his great attitude, laughter and helping others. Davis served 11 years as an alderman and did more volunteer work than most people half his age.

Despite his disability, Davis said, “I really enjoyed the military. I was going down the wrong path when I joined up.”

He was alderman from 1999 to 2010 and was also a VFW commander, a co-organizer of the Wheel Chair Olympics, Sherwood Volunteer of the Year, honorary commander of the Little Rock Air Force Base and an Arkansas National Guard Community Council member.

Alderman Marina Brooks called Davis her mentor. “He took me under his wing as an alderman. He truly was Mr. Sherwood. We will miss him,” she said.

His funeral will be held at 11:30 a.m. Monday, April 18 at Griffin Leggett Rest Hills Funeral Home with burial at 1 p.m. at North Little Rock Veterans Cemetery.