Remembering Ron Davidson
by Tom Smith
Ron Davidson was a mans man and a Marines Marine, an incredible physical specimen. Throughout Officer Candidate School (OCS) and The Basic School (TBS) he always seemed to me like a man among boys. He was so strong and powerful that the rifle in his hands often looked like a toy, his helmet looked undersized. He exuded boundless self-confidence and a total lack of fear. These traits were exceeded only by his sense of humor. His humorous comments and playful attitude helped me and a lot of other people get through difficult times during that rigorous training. His mere presence was often an inspiration to me and, I suspect, others. Ron Davidson exemplified leadership.
I didnt know much about his background. We were kind of focused on what we were going through and where we were headed (Vietnam) back in 67-68 rather than where we came from. I thought he had been a Biology teacher or Phys Ed teacher. His nickname was plant life which generated from one of his humorous dissertations on the state of our plight as Officer Candidates living a sub-human (i.e., plant level) existence. He could make misery seem like fun that way. I naturally gravitated to Rons circle during our many liberty trips to Washington, D.C., and will always be grateful for those memories.
So many memories fade over 30+ years, but here are two that will never go away. I see them often. We had a young Sergeant Drill Instructor who seemed to harass without much reason. I suspect he had an inferiority and/or Napoleonic complex since he was short and of slight build. He was not respected by us the way the other sergeants were. A popular form of harassment/punishment in OCS basic training is to have the candidate do push ups (drop and give me 20, maggot). The incident that I remember vividly occurred on a Friday afternoon during the inspection we went through before we would be released for weekend liberty. This sergeant was on Davidson and had made him do over 100 push ups by repeatedly asking for more, looking for failure (give me 25 more, candidate). I remember watching this as we were all at the position of attention in front of our bunks, and this unfolded in front of the entire platoon. Finally, Ron seemed to be straining and barely able to finish as he completed a set of 25. The sergeant now with evil glee pronounced, Davidson, you give me 25 more or nobody is getting liberty this weekend. My heart sank. Ron promptly blew off 25 push ups as fast and easy as youd get up from a chair. He really sucked that sergeant in
.. a work of art! A fantastic weekend followed.
The other enduring image is of Davidson during our hikes. Ron was always designated as stretcher bearer for the hikes. That meant in addition to all his gear Ron would carry a stretcher (over 6 feet long, weighing about 40 lbs.) and bring up the rear. I can still see him
with the stretcher over his shoulder like an umbrella
pushing and dragging people who were falling back
shouting encouragement. What a sight! These hikes were brutal; they were more like running through the forest with full pack and combat gear. On one particular brutal hike, bodies were dropping left and right. I started having a very difficult time physically, and had dropped back to where Ron was policing up the rear with his stretcher. I didnt think I could make it. Ron looked at me and shouted Smitty, you can do this. Get the fuck back up there where you belong. It may be hard for others to comprehend how that caused such a surge of adrenalin and determination that sent me galloping back to my place, but Ill never forget it. At that moment Ron did for me what I couldnt do for myself.
My first assignment in Nam was with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 27th Marines. Ron joined the same battalion. He was assigned to India Company. We only saw each other a few times when we both were in the rear at the same time, and at a briefing before a big battalion operation. I do know that both his platoon members and his Company superiors and staff loved him. Staff NCOs dont care much for new 2nd Lieutenants, but they loved him. As I said, he was a Marines Marine
pure and simple. His death really rocked his Platoon and Company. In combat (as a defense mechanism, I believe) reaction to death is often minimal. Its an everyday occurrence that sometimes generates as much emotion (outwardly) as someone dropping out of school or quitting a job. After Rons death his Company looked like death! They were shook!
but not as much as me! It really hit me hard. I didnt think anything could harm him let alone kill him. He was such a stud. It didnt seem possible to me. It also generated intense fear for me
if they could kill Davidson, what chance do I have?.
His jeep was blown up by a command-detonated mine. He was acting as pay officer and traveling from Battalion headquarters to his Platoons outpost with their pay. A command-detonated mine is one in which an individual explodes the device by hand when a vehicle/individual is near (versus a mine that goes off when you drive over or step on it). This road was swept by the engineers every morning, and was a relatively busy thoroughfare. Hence, it had to be a command-detonated device for this ambush. Although fatally wounded by the blast, Ron did not die immediately. He was able to prevent the ambush unit from capturing the payroll and other supplies on the jeep by keeping them at bay with his small arms fire until others arrived on the scene. He succumbed to his wounds, as you know. What a loss.
Its been over 38 years since his death. I think of him often. It was my privilege to have served with him, and to call him my friend. I will never forget him.
All gave some but
Some gave all.
But they shall not grow old
As we who are left grow old.
Age will not weary them nor the years condemn,
But at the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
- Lawence Binyon excerpt from The Fallen