Davis's death 'a sad deal'

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

   Many of Jefferson Donald Davis's friends heard the news Wednesday about the U.S. soldiers who died under friendly fire in Afghanistan. But none of them really believed it would be someone they knew.
   "It's the kind of thing that happens somewhere else," said Jerry Jenkins. "It's a sad deal."
   Jenkins and Matt Geagley, both of Elizabethton, attended high school with Davis.
   "Donnie and I were good friends," Jenkins said. "He was easy-going and friendly. Everybody liked him. We used to go camping up at the lake a lot and we did a little fishing together."
   Jenkins said he last saw Davis four or five years ago.
   "He told me he was a medic in whatever field he was in. He was over in Korea for awhile at the DMZ (demilitarized zone). He met his wife (My Kyong) there."
   Jenkins and Davis also played football together. I was a wide receiver and he was a strong safety. He was hard-nosed. He did what he was supposed to do," Jenkins said.
   Geagley remembered Davis as always having a smile on his face. "He never got rattled.
   "He never seemed the type in school to excel in the military but once he was in there, he did. He moved up fast. You don't see many 40-year-old's that are master sergeants," he said.
   Geagley and Davis attended eighth grade at T.A. Dugger Junior High before high school. Davis also played football at Lees McCrae College in North Carolina before transferring to East Tennessee State University in Johnson City.
   "He went to ETSU one semester and joined the Army. He was a serious soldier, but after he came back -- from Korea, the Gulf, Iraq, Somalia -- he was always the same old Donnie. He was a Green Beret. Everything that's happened in the last seven or eight years, he was there," Geagley said. "Donnie's been in situations like he was in yesterday."
   Geagley last saw Davis and his family this past spring, he said.
   "His wife is a fine Christian person. His little girl hasn't made a B in school yet, and his boy wants to be a football player."
   After joining the Army, Geagley said, Davis developed a taste for jumping out of airplanes.
   "He went to jump school in the last four or five years and was by far the oldest one there."
   As a child, Davis did chores for his uncle and helped out around his grandfather's farm, Geagley said.
   "He'd drag me up there and I would get paid, but he would never take any money," he said.
   Ed Alexander, principal at Elizabethton High School -- where Davis' niece and nephew both attend school -- said he learned of the tragedy about an hour before school let out Wednesday.
   This is the second time an EHS student has died in a government incident, he said. The first was FBI Agent Todd McKeehan, who was killed during the storming of David Koresh's Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.
   Davis' former basketball coach at Elizabethton High School, Len Dugger, remembered him as being "a fine young man -- so mannerly, so respectful. He was always concerned about everyone.
   "As a basketball player, he was such a hard-worker. He was an overachiever and just had such great work ethics. He came to practice every day. He was a team player. If you were to ask his teammates who would win the 'Mr. Hustle' award, they would say Donnie. He always wanted what was best for his team," Dugger said.
   "He was a very, very special young man. Every time you saw him, he had a smile on his face. It was always, 'Yes, sir; No, sir.' "
   Davis played center while at EHS. "He was about 6 feet 2," Dugger said. "Most of the time he was overmatched, but he just competed so hard that he was able to overcome the size advantage. We were playing against guys 6-feet-4 to 6-feet-8," Dugger said.
   "If I'm going to remember anything about Donnie, it's what a special person he was, his kindness and the respect that he displayed to everyone."
   Former Elizabethton High School football coach Dave Rider said he remembers Davis "because he and my son went to school together from the seventh grade on. He played four years for me. He was a quarterback and strong safety. He made All-Conference as strong safety in 1980."
   Coach Rider said he heard the news about the U.S. casualties on the radio Wednesday morning, "but it never dawned on me" that it would be someone he knew.
   Davis was very dependable, well-liked, and kind of shy, Rider said.
   "He was the kind of boy every parent wants their son to be like."