Davis family seeks closure on death of their son

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

   The Dec. 5 "friendly fire" deaths of Master Sgt. Jefferson Donald "Donnie" Davis of Watauga, Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Petithory of Massachusetts, and Staff Sgt. Brian Cody Prosser of California brought new attention to the elite Special Forces groups deployed throughout the world.
   Though Donnie's parents, Lon and Linda Davis of Watauga, knew their son usually spent eight months out of the year in some foreign country, they are only now learning about what he did. They are even more in the dark about the events surrounding his death.
   According to news accounts from the Washington Post and The New York Times, Davis and the 5th Special Forces Group headquartered at Fort Campbell, Ky., had been assigned to protect Hamid Karzi, Afghanistan's interim prime minister. The 5th Group and Karzi's men had been pinned down Dec. 4 at Showali Kowt, 10 miles from the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar. After fighting nearly 48 hours with little food and no sleep, they overtook an observation post. A Green Beret support team arrived and Davis's team received an air drop of food and letters from home. A festive mood prevailed and the 5th Group got its first sleep in three days.
   The next morning, with the Taliban still close by, the Green Beret support team ordered airstrikes. An Air Force combat controller radioed coordinates for an airstrike by a Navy F/A-18, then did a second calculation for an approaching B-52 bomber. The controller, using a "plugger," or Precision Lightweight GPS Receiver, had performed the calculation and recorded the position when the receiver's battery died. He didn't realize that once the battery had been changed, the device automatically reverted to coordinates for his own location. He called in the B-52 strike, killing Davis, Petithory and Prosser, and injuring 5th Group's Capt. Jason Amerine and even Karzi.
   CIA operatives reportedly were also in the area, leading some to dispute the actual number of American casualties. The Pentagon says it is still investigating the Dec. 5 accident.
   Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Way, a member of Davis's 5th Group, said that at the time his team was under attack in Afghanistan, he was asked to stay at Fort Campbell for three months as battalion commander. "I was to join my team in January," he said.
   5th Group has not received any information about the incident that has not already been released to the media, said Way, who had known Davis 13 years and had served with him in a separate detachment under the same "big umbrella mission" in Kuwait and Pakistan, among other parts of the world.
   "You have the big operation, like Enduring Freedom and Operation Anaconda, but then there are different sub missions."
   Way said his wife had purchased Tom Clancy's "Special Forces" book for him and though he has not finished it yet, "It's the most accurate thing I've seen published on Special Forces. I think it's a good thing, because -- like my parents -- they don't even know what I do. And I heard the same thing from Donnie's parents. ... If they were to get Tom Clancy's "Special Forces" and read that, it would give them a very good idea of what their boy did while he was in our organization."
   Way said the public often hears about the Special Forces being in certain locations. "Sometimes it is Special Forces; sometimes it's not. If you see a bunch of guys standing around in helmets, and there's a bunch of them, it's not Special Forces. We don't travel in huge groups. We travel as little as two guys. We can have two men somewhere in a country doing something at any given time. We're designed to work in teams of 12 men, and we split down into sub-teams, but nothing more than 12 guys, nothing less than two."
   There are different Special Forces groups, such as 1st through 10th, Way said, and Clancy's book outlines which area of the world each group is responsible for.
   "We all have different areas of the world that we are required to know the culture, the language, everything. The 5th Group's area is the Middle East and North and Central Africa. So if anything is going on in [in those areas], it's our group that does it."
   Way said 5th Special Forces feels "we were successful in what we were called to do" in Afghanistan. "A lot of the fellows have returned; we still have fellows there. They're gearing up for the possible event of being called out again for Round 2 or whatever."
   Lon and Linda Davis are frustrated that their knowledge of the Dec. 5 mission is based on newspaper accounts and stories from the Internet.
   "Sometime or another they have to tell us. They have to give us a report," Lon said.
   Donnie's mother said, "The only thing about this that really bothers me is we're his family. We're his parents, his wife and his children. Do we have to pick up the paper and read the same thing a total stranger would read about our son? I feel like that would be a more personal thing, really. I don't mean to sound selfish or pious, but I really feel that the wife and the children and the parents deserve just a little bit more consideration."
   Lon said he really doesn't care about the report, per se. "We know in our heart that Donnie didn't do it and we've talked with people that knew that he didn't do it -- it wasn't him or Danny (Petithory) either one. It wasn't even one of his team.
   "The report isn't going to change anything. I really don't care what happened. It's done happened. But I'm upset that they don't go ahead and give us a report and get it over with," he said.
   The family has received letters from two law firms regarding what legal action they should take over the accident. But Lon said, "We're not the suing type. That ain't going to help a thing."
   Linda agreed. "We just filed it in our file with strange letters that we've received. All the money in the world is not going to bring that boy back. It's not going to compensate. I know it in my heart that he's not coming back now. This is when reality has set in.
   "Whoever's responsible, they have to live with it. They know what they did. And if they want to cover it up like a cat covering poop, OK, go ahead ... that's the best way I can put it. But they've got to live with it in their heart.
   "You try not to get bitter over this whole thing. But you can't help -- I don't care who you are -- to feel just a little bit of bitterness. If you say you don't, you're fibbing to yourself," she said.