Davis family draws strength from a 'united' nation

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

   The family of Master Sgt. "Donnie" Davis, like many families around the globe, saw their lives changed dramatically by the events of Sept. 11.
   For the Davis family, the day's events precipitated the unfolding of the War on Terrorism and the resulting death of their son and brother in Afghanistan.
   Tuesday morning, Debra Sams -- Donnie's sister -- and her friend Mary Hilton were strategically placing flags on the hillside leading to Sams' home in memory of Donnie, who died Dec. 5, 2001, as a result of friendly fire while protecting Hamid Karzai, now Afghanistan's president.
   "After we get it together, I think it's going to look good. At least I hope so," Sams said. She and Hilton originally began writing the words, "Msg. Donnie Davis, Our Hero," in the red, white and blue of Old Glory.
   Unfortunately they soon ran out of flags and had to regroup. By 11 a.m., they were still pounding holes in the drought-hardened earth with a hammer and screwdriver in order to set the flags. Not the least dismayed that the first plan of attack didn't work, they struggled onward, allies accomplishing a mission. Much like Donnie himself.
   Sams said thinking about Sept. 11 makes her sad. "I told Mary, 'Today and tomorrow are really going to be very hard because that's what started my brother having to go to the war and that was the beginning of it.
   "As a matter of fact, Mary's the one that called me that morning and said, 'Wake up, there's something going on. There's planes hitting the towers in New York.' I remember turning on the TV and I just had a feeling that we probably would go to war. I knew that Donnie would be there and I just knew something wasn't right with it -- and then I found out it wasn't.
   "It's going to be a very sad day for all of us. I guess we're just going to stick together and be together, and we'll get through it. We've made it through so far."
   Lon Davis, Donnie's father, said the family still has not received an official government report regarding the events surrounding the death of his son, a Green Beret with the 5th Special Forces Group, 101st Division. The latest word they received, he said, was from a television documentary which related that a soldier had programmed in the wrong coordinates, bringing a satellite-guided bomb down on their own position.
   Linda Davis, Donnie's mother, said Sept. 11 changed a lot of people's lives. "Not just the ones in New York -- the firefighters, the policemen, the workers that were in the Trade Center. It affected many lives, not just military. The everyday 'Joe' on the street, it affected them. It's also changed hearts. It's changed the way a lot of people think," she said.
   Donnie's mother also said that because of the attacks which resulted in her son's death, she's had to work her way through a period of "just pure hate."
   Who she hated, she says, she still doesn't know. "I don't know if it was the foreign countries, I don't know if it was God, I don't know if it was my country, I don't know if it was myself. But I just all of the sudden had this horrible hate.
   "Hate can destroy, and I know that. So every day when I get up, I pray that God takes that feeling of hate away from me to keep me from destroying myself over this. I know I'm only one person, we're only one family, we're only one set of parents that have lost a son or a loved one. But if I can feel this way at times, what do I think these other people feel? We're not in this by ourselves," she said.
   By the same token, "out of all this malicious destruction, this devastation, I feel that we have gotten so much love. Our country has really come together. I really feel it. And it has nothing to do with who is the president and who isn't the president. This has brought our country and our communities together."
   Looking at the red, white and blue sign posted in her treasured rock garden which surrounds a now-dead pine tree she has since fashioned into a small bonsai shape, Donnie's mother gathered strength. "I really believe it when it says, 'United We Stand.' I believe that with all my heart now," she said, as her words gathered power: "United We Stand!"