‘Freedom Is Not Free’

‘Freedom Is Not Free’

Commissioner Daniel Gade, center, poses with fellow Alexandria residents Capt. Eugene “Red” McDaniel and Col. Paris Davis Dec. 12 in Roanoke.

Commissioner Daniel Gade, center, poses with fellow Alexandria residents Capt. Eugene “Red” McDaniel and Col. Paris Davis Dec. 12 in Roanoke.

Two of Alexandria’s most decorated Vietnam veterans — Navy Capt. Eugene “Red” McDaniel and Medal of Honor recipient Army Col. Paris Davis — were honored by Gov. Glenn Younkin as the Virginia Veterans Care Center was renamed the Davis and McDaniel Veterans Care Center Dec. 12 in Roanoke.

“Hero is a word that is oftentimes overused but today is a word that is wholly inadequate to describe the men that this beautiful facility going forward will be named,” Youngkin said in addressing the crowd. “Today we honor two incredible souls who across war and conflict defined victory with their unwavering courage.”

Youngkin and other state and local officials, including Mount Vernon resident and Commission of Virginia Department of Veteran Services Daniel Gade, were on hand to cut the ribbon officially renaming the center that was first opened in 1992.

“Virginia's veterans landed on D-Day, they fought in the trenches of Korea, the jungles and camps of Vietnam and the sands of Iraq,” said Gade, a disabled veteran of the war in Iraq. “Today we are gathered to honor two very special Virginia veterans. I feel a special kinship with them as soldiers wounded in battle share a fellowship of suffering that the uninitiated cannot comprehend.”

Gade shared the heroic stories of Medal of Honor recipient Davis and Vietnam War POW McDaniel, his voice breaking as he recalled their gallantry in combat.

“If one hero wasn't enough, today we honor two,” Gade said. “My admiration for Eugene ‘Red’ McDaniel goes back to when a 12-year-old me read, read again and reread his book Scars and Stripes. Those stories stuck with me and have inspired me for nearly 40 years. And in my own darkest hour, when I was maimed and broken in war, I turned to your inspiration. I prayed with the same fervency to the same great God. I was able to bear up under unspeakable pain because you'd done it before me. Men like you and Col. Davis inspired me then and you inspire me now and it is our honor to name this care center after you.”

Youngkin read the Medal of Honor citation for Davis, saying “Heroes like Col. Paris D. Davis remind us that it takes just one to stand, one to lead through service, one whose deeds inspire many.”

Said Davis in his remarks, “The name of the veterans center is not about me. It is about the commitment we have shared to support our veterans. This center is a testament to the value we hold dear, the love that we have for America and those who serve to protect our country and who have dedicated their lives to the principle of duty and honor.”

In addition to the ribbon cutting, the ceremony featured the presentation of plaques to Davis and McDaniel.

“I am humbled and honored at such a high level for this building to be named after me,” McDaniel said. “If I had known 50 years ago when I ejected into the jungles of North Vietnam that God was going to use my story in these ways it would have been a much easier ride. Thank you Governor Youngkin and Commissioner Gade, a man who has given much more than I for his country.”

Operated by the Virginia Department of Veteran Services, the Davis and McDaniel Veterans Care Center has 224 beds and provides on-site laboratory work, X-rays, physical therapy, podiatry care and many other health care services. It is located next door to the Salem Veterans Affairs Medical Center. 

“Colonel Davis, Captain McDaniel thank you for loving our country,” Youngkin said. “Thank you for demonstrating what selfless service means. And thank you again for reminding all of us that freedom is not free.”