Community shares Davis family's grief

    "Don't grieve for me, for now I'm free.
    I'm following the path God laid for me.
    I took His hand when I heard Him call.
    I turned my back and left it all.
    I could not stay another day ...
    To laugh, to love, to work or play.
    Tasks left undone must stay that way.
    I found that peace at the close of the day.
    If my parting has left a void ...
    Then fill it with remembered joy. ..."

   -- Excerpt from 'I'm Free,' Davis funeral
By Kathy Helms-Hughes

   Eighteen members of the 5th Special Forces will escort the body of their fallen brother to his final resting place at Happy Valley Memorial Park following funeral services at 2 p.m. today at Elizabethton High School.
   Master Sgt. Jefferson Donald "Donnie" Davis, 39, who died Dec. 5 near Kandahar, Afghanistan, is to be buried with full military honors following a presentation of awards.
   During visitation Monday at the high school, friends, family, city and county officials, and members of the community stood in line an hour or more to express their sympathies to the family. Tears flowed. Hugs followed.
   A member of the Special Forces stood guard over the body, eyes never wavering from the flag-draped coffin surrounded by red, white and blue flower arrangements. Routinely the guard snapped to attention, rotated out, and was replaced by a fellow soldier.
   A proclamation signed by state legislative leaders, photographs of Davis -- one accented by a burning candle -- were displayed near the body. Davis's highly decorated uniform, displayed on a mannequin, stood as a silent reminder of what one man who gave his all for his country. A framed tribute to Davis written by his daughter, Cristina, 14, carried a photo of Davis on his police-issue Harley-Davidson.
   His wife, Mi Kyong; parents, Lon and Linda Davis; grandmother, Ruth Curd; brother, Danny; sister, Debbie; and brother-in-law, Tim Sams, stood for hours along with other family members as guest after guest filed past.
   The Davis's son, Jesse, 9, stood like a model young soldier beside his family, shaking hands. Pride in his father shone on his face.
   Capt. Jason Amerine, who was with Davis when a bomb from an Air Force B-52 struck near their position, also came to comfort the family.
   "I do not want my men remembered as a detachment that was taken out by an errant bomb," Amerine told the Associated Press while at a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, following the attack. "They cannot be remembered that way. They are the best that America has to offer."
   A captain with the 5th Special Forces, who requested anonymity, said Amerine was Davis's team leader. "Both of his eardrums, I think, are gone. He still hears a little bit. He's walking around now with shrapnel in his leg."
   Despite injuries to 20 U.S. soldiers, the deaths of Master Sgt. Davis, Sgt. 1st Class Dan Petithory, and Staff Sgt. Cody Prosser, the captain said members of the Special Forces which remain behind all want to go to Afghanistan.
   "We want to be there with our buddies and contribute. We contribute back here in other ways, but we're begging to go there. That's what we do," he said.
   Beecher O'Quinn of Watauga braved the dreary afternoon rain to pay his respects to the family. O'Quinn said he didn't know Davis on a "buddy-buddy basis, but I knew him. I talked with him a few times down at his dad's and mother's place of business. I knew his grandparents. He was a nice guy. ... He was a gentle giant of a man. He's definitely a hero, but it's sad that it has to come to this to be a hero. I don't think he set out to be one; it just happened. ... It's a sad situation.
   "I just hope that they'll get the people responsible for all this stuff, I really do," O'Quinn said.
   Fire Chief Dale Smalling of Watauga Volunteer Fire Department was visibly moved as he left the building. "They're close friends -- fine people, and I'm very sorry for them," he said.
   Earlier in the afternoon, Carter County Sheriff John Henson greeted mourners upon their arrival. Surveying the crowd, Henson said, "Carter County is just one big family. This here shows you that Carter County does stick with their own."