Students at Bobby Ray Elementary have literally written the book on their school’s namesake, publishing what is believed to be the first book on the life and times of the Congressional Medal of Honor recipient.
The book was the brainchild of Samantha Harvey during her first year teaching English as a Second Language at Bobby Ray. While teaching her students how to speak English, a conversation arose about how the school got its name. That’s when she discovered her students didn’t know who Bobby Ray was even though they were attending a school named for him.
“I was talking to my first-graders about who Bobby Ray was and they said he was named after the school,” Harvey recalled.
David Robert “Bobby” Ray (born Feb. 14, 1945) was a United States Navy Hospital Corpsman Third Class who was killed in action during the Vietnam War while assigned to an artillery battery of the United States Marine Corps.
Ray was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroic actions on March 19, 1969.
Ray was mortally wounded trying to attend to the injuries of his fellow soldiers in his role as a medic. Ray threw his body across that of another soldier to save his life when a grenade exploded nearby. Ray was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest distinction given a soldier.
He also had a ship named in his honor, the USS David R. Ray. A destroyer, it was commissioned in 1977 and sailed for 25 years.
Given the fact her students did not know who Bobby Ray was, Harvey decided to seek information for her students. However, she came up empty in her search.
“After talking to the librarian about books on Bobby Ray I was told there were none.” Harvey said.
With no books for her students to read about the local war hero, Harvey decided her class would take it as their project to write a book.
“We interviewed his sister, Mrs. Mary Dawn Rigsby, and watched events such as Bobby Ray Day, where there is a mock military funeral. We looked online and did anything we could to find any information,” Harvey said. “We took little field trips around the school trying to research medals and any information we could.”
The students covered numerous topics about the life and times of Bobby Ray.
“From his birth, his parents, until the day he died and then we talked about the school,” Harvey said of the assignments given to her students. “I had my first-graders really focus on character traits of a hero and of him. My fourth- and fifth-graders really focused on his life and his death.”
Harvey said the project became more than just class work to be graded.
“They were really invested in it and they really enjoyed researching it, writing it and re-writing it over and over,” Harvey said. “We have a beautiful book now about Bobby Ray.”
The students recently offered the book for sale during a book signing at the school. Harvey said this year she plans to have her students write another book, this one a biography about Lester Strode.