A day after one of the most decorated soldiers in U.S. history died of a heart attack, tributes to Gen. Raymond G. Davis of Stockbridge poured forth from veterans, friends and admirers for a warrior who served in three wars abroad and then battled for veterans' issues at home.
Gov. Sonny Perdue called Davis a "leader during my campaign and an adviser in my administration" and said he will order flags at half-staff Monday, the day of Davis' funeral.
Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) took to the Senate floor Thursday, calling Davis a "true American hero" who "represented the highest traditions of military service and citizenship."
And friends shared memories, some joking that they always expressed surprise that the diminutive 5-foot-6 Davis didn't fall down from the weight of all his medals.
"If you looked at him, this man so small in stature, you'd never know that he earned every military award in the book," said Thaddeus Sobieski, 76, a former president of the Atlanta chapter of Korean War Veterans, which is known as the Davis Chapter. "But he was a real pepper pod. You don't earn those honors without being the bravest of the brave."
Davis, who died Wednesday, was 88. The funeral will be 2 p.m. Monday at Conyers First United Methodist Church.
Bill Bailey, 83, a friend of Davis for more than 30 years, said it took most people who came in contact with Davis a long time to get past the myth that surrounded the man and his military accomplishments.
"I've said to him, 'Ray, I've had a real hard time looking past the Medal of Honor and the honors and really see you as a man,' " Bailey said. "But you know what I found when I got past the hero worshipping? He was just a little boy from Fitzgerald, Ga., who placed all the credit for everything he'd done at the hands of the men who served under him."
The son of an Atlanta confectioner, Davis was born in 1915. He graduated from Georgia Tech in 1937, during the Depression, with a degree in chemical engineering and joined the military, which had some of the only jobs available.
"I asked a recruiter if I could have some active duty time so I could eat," he once said.
He was commissioned as a second lieutenant and fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam before retiring as a four-star general in 1972. He ended his military service as assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, the second-highest-ranking Marine.
For his service, the nation awarded him its highest military recognition -- the Medal of Honor. In addition, he also holds the Navy Cross, two Distinguished Service medals, two Silver Stars, two Legion of Merit awards, a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and enough others to anchor a battleship.
When Harry Truman awarded Davis the Medal of Honor for leading the rescue of a stranded Marine rifle company in a freezing North Korea mountain pass in 1950, the president remarked, "I'd rather have this medal than be president."
Davis said he wasn't inclined to swap.
During his service, Davis was wounded -- or as he says "nicked" -- six times.
"My wife teases me, says, 'The Lord took such good care of you, that's why you taught Sunday school for 20 years when you came home,' " he said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in July.
He dedicated his post-retirement life to tirelessly advocating for veterans, particularly the veterans of the Korean War, which he called "the Forgotten War."
"It was his determination and personal initiative that led to the approval of the Korean War Veterans Memorial design, its construction and finally its dedication in July of 1995," Miller said Thursday.
The $18 million memorial stands on a 2.2-acre site adjacent to the reflection pool near the Lincoln Memorial.
Sobieski said he last met Davis on Saturday at an event at the Atlanta Chinese Cultural Center.
"He looked kind of infirm, but he still had his strong handshake," he said. "Even in his 80s, he was so full of pep and vim. And always doing something to make sure the Korean vets were never forgotten."
Davis is survived by his wife of 61 years, Knox Heafner Davis -- a North Carolina teacher he married just before heading off to military glory in the Pacific. He also leaves behind sons Raymond Gil Davis Jr. of Covington and Gordon Miles Davis of Seminole, Ala., daughter Willa Kerr of Stockbridge; seven grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Visitation with be noon to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with family present 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, at Horis A. Ward, Rockdale Chapel, funeral home.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in his honor to the Gen. Raymond G. Davis Endowment Fund, Georgia Tech Foundation and sent to Pat C. Barton, Office of Development, Georgia Tech, 177 North Ave. N.W., Atlanta, GA 30332-0220.