8:45 AM ET

If he could meet her three sons, what would his response be? She wonders what it would be like to meet him.

When her father was killed in Vietnam, she was 13 months old. When Davis died, he left behind a wife and two young daughters.

When she was 9 years old, she didn't know the details of her father's death. She read a story about how Davis saved five other Marines during a firefight by jumping on a grenade.

As a child, I wondered why my dad. Why did he have to do that? I thought how brave. He would do something to save others. I was proud of him because he did it. He was my dad and I never got to know him. I felt a loss, but at the same time I felt what he did was amazing. I always wanted him with me, but I couldn't.

Through the stories her mother, Judy Davis, and her father's parents, siblings and friends gave her, she now recognizes many of his qualities in her sons. Tyler was a two-year starter on the offensive line at Commodores and will play next season at Alabama. Middle son Dylan will be a high school freshman this fall, while his younger brother will be a freshman at the University of Virginia. Their father was a football player at LSU and a Marine.

"I think he would be very proud, from what I have been told." My three sons are very similar to that. They show many of the things I have learned about my father.

As soon as the brothers were old enough to comprehend, they were told about her father. They toured the ship named after a Black Medal of Honor recipient. He was honored at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. and in his hometown of Macon, Georgia.

It is likely that someone would do what he did.

Davis, who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam more than 50 years ago, will be honored by Americans on Memorial Day.

In a big family, Rodney Davis grew up. He had three brothers and one sister, but his parents, Ruth and Gordon, also took in seven of his siblings. For a long time, the Davis home had only one bathroom, with 12 kids in it.

His sister remembers that he liked ice cream.

There was a place where colored people could stop and get ice cream. He wouldn't let my brother and I go into the store with him. He would bring the ice cream back. He wouldn't allow us to go in and be subjected to that. I remember how much he loved us and how much he protected us.

He enlisted in the Marines after graduating high school. He was supposed to follow in his brother's footsteps and go to college at Fort Valley State. He left for boot camp instead. He was trained at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina before being assigned to the security detail at the U.S. Embassy in London.

Davis met Judy Humphrey when he arrived in England for his three-year tour. She was raised in London. They married and had two children. Davis enlisted for six more years after being promoted to sergeant. He wanted to fight in Vietnam and requested a change of duties.

According to the book, Davis told his brother that it was time to stop being a show. Nobody is more qualified than me.

Davis left for California on July 11, 1967, to begin preparing for Vietnam. It was the last time he would see his family.

The 1st Marine Division ordered Davis' unit, Company B of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, to assist Delta Company, which was being overmatched by the larger North Vietnamese forces on the morning of Sept. 4.

Gary Petrous, who was a 19-year-old assistant gunner in the company, said that he felt like there were a hundred pairs of eyes watching him. Everybody looked nervous as I looked up and down the line.

54 Marines were killed and 104 were wounded on the first day of fighting. The 1st Battalion, 5th Marines were the worst unit during the Vietnam War. Delta Company left the base to chase down the NVA and the Viet Cong in a mission that became known as "Operation Swift."

Davis was in charge of distributing supplies to his troops.

The company was ordered to advance on the village. The village was empty and quiet when they arrived.

It was a trap.

Petrous said that there were between 10 and 20 grass shacks at the edge of the cemetery. There was nothing on them. It was all foliage and where all the NVA were.

Davis and others retreated to a 30-foot trench along the tree line, under attack from a barrage of heavy machine gun fire. They were hit by bullets over their heads.

We have a good position now. Davis repeatedly told the troops that they were going to be okay, according to the book.

The Marines knew they were outnumbered.

Platoon Cmdr. John Brackeen said there were too many of them. There was a group of them. They kept coming.

After a few minutes of fighting, the NVA was close enough to throw grenades into the trench. The Marines jumped out of the hole as the grenades fell. The grenades were thrown back at the NVA by Davis. He had a few seconds before the explosion.

There were two grenades coming in Davis direction. One flew high over the trench and exploded behind him. The second one bounced off the leg of Lance Cpl.

Petrous and others in the trench have wondered why Davis did what he did. Davis lunged on top of the grenade. He used both of his arms to pull the grenade under his body.

The body of Davis came crashing down after being thrust high in the air. He died instantly.

Marine Ben Drollinger said that he pulled the grenade. There are no ifs or buts about it.

He took the entire blast. There wasn't anything that came out. If the blast had escaped, I would have been seriously hurt or killed. I have wondered if I could do the same thing. I don't know. You only find out at that moment.

Judy Davis was in the kitchen of her in-laws home when she saw the Marines. Family members say she collapsed on the floor. They told her that her husband had been killed by a grenade.

Davis was buried at a family plot. He was not buried at Arlington National Cemetery so his family could have him closer to home.

Petrous was struck by the fact that Davis sacrificed his life for his fellow Marines. He only said a few words to the newcomer before he died.

Petrous said that all of them were amazed that he did what he had to do to save his friends.

Marine Randy Leedom asked Petrous to help him write a recommendation for Davis to receive the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military, a few days after Petrous and others loaded Davis' body onto a chopper.

After Petrous left Vietnam and returned to Detroit, he didn't hear anything about Davis' application for nearly two years. He saw a picture of the widow of a soldier receiving a medal of honor during a ceremony at the White House on March 26, 1969.

Petrous said that it was as close as possible to what he had written. I got chills just looking at it.

Sergeant Davis moved from man to man shouting words of encouragement to each of them while firing and throwing grenades at the onrushing enemy, according to the citation. When an enemy grenade landed in the midst of his men, Sergeant Davis, realizing the gravity of the situation, and in a final act of complete self-sacrifice, instantly threw himself upon the grenade, absorbing with his own body the full and terrific force of the explosion. In the face of almost certain death, Sergeant Davis saved his platoon from injury and possible loss of life and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service. He gave his life for his country.

The Davis family did not know about the death of their brother until they were on the plane to Washington, D.C.

It would not be until many years later that the Davis family learned that all of the men Rodney saved were white, at a time when he still faced systemic racism back home.

It was always that he made a sacrifice and saved lives. They were able to return to their families because of what he did. I don't think we ever thought about that. When we found out, we were shocked and didn't know what they were. It was ironic that he did that at the time.

Courtesy of Davis family

She looks at the grandsons to see if she recognizes him. The same height as their grandfather is 6 feet, 5 inches by Tyler and 5 feet, 5 inches by Blake. Dylan is 6 feet 2 inches tall. She sees more of her father in the daughters he left behind.

Ray said that he keeps looking at the boys to see if he sees him. It is not so much Tyler,Blake and Dylan as Nicky and Sammy. I didn't expect my brother to be in them. Two strong women are making their own way in the world. Sammy is raising her boys to be strong, independent men.

The strength and independence of the two children of a banking executive was provided by their mother. Judy Davis moved her girls to California after graduating from Fort Valley State in Georgia. She died of breast cancer in 2005.

"My mom raised my sister and I alone," she said. She was strong. Is it possible to move to the United States with two children and meet your in-laws? It had been a while. Even though we didn't get to have him in our lives, we had a good life.

Tyler first learned of his grandfather's heroic actions when he did a project on his family tree. His mother didn't want him to hear about what happened from someone else.

Tyler said it was cool to know that his grandfather had an incredible story, and that he was able to share it at school.

Tyler is four years younger than his grandpa.

Tyler was close to his age when he made that decision. It was a split-second decision and he didn't have to think about it. It was something that was ingrained in him. I cannot wrap my head around it, but it was amazing.

The two brothers played at a Fort Lauderdale high school. Tyler played on the defensive line as a freshman, then switched to the offensive line. He moved to left tackle the next season after starting every game at right tackle in 2019. He played in 21 games for the Commodores over the past two seasons. He chose Alabama over other schools.

Tyler is expected to compete for one of the two vacant starting offensive tackle positions.

St. Thomas Aquinas High won three state titles in a row. He is a member of the first recruiting class at Virginia. Mississippi Valley State, Jackson State, New Mexico State and Tennessee State were chosen over the Cavaliers.

Virginia lost six linemen from its roster last year, including four who left via the transfer portal, so it has plenty of holes to fill on the offensive line.

Tyler says that his brother will be better than him. Dylan might be the best college football prospect in the family.

Tyler said that he has complete confidence in the fact that he will be an absolute baller in everything he does. He is more athletic than me. He works hard and has a great work ethic. A lot of people are going to be disappointed that they didn't get to meet him.

The Marines were told in 2010 that the cemetery had fallen into disrepair. They raised $60,000 to clean it up and build a monument to Davis. A scholarship was created for high school students to attend college. The scholarship fund now has more than $300,000.

Petrous never met the Davis family until he attended the dedication of the memorial.

The hardest part for Petrous was meeting the Davis family for the first time. Maybe I did something that caused this to happen. I could be a part of this blame. I have never been treated like that in my life. They were amazing.

I cried all the way home from Detroit after I drove home from Macon.

Petrous stops at the cemetery to visit the grave when he goes to Florida.

Petrous said that he got the honor of writing that through a bunch of weird circumstances. It is the greatest honor I have ever had.

When those who knew Davis watch his grandsons play football this fall, they will be reminded of his bravery.

I know my sons have a lot of respect for what he did, and they understand the sacrifice he made. They understand what happened.