Sgt. died while on extended Iraq tour

The Baltimore Sun

In late July -- less than a week before he was to return home from Iraq -- Army combat medic Sgt. David J. "Joey" Davis of Lisbon learned that his one-year tour of duty had been extended until after Thanksgiving, perhaps until February.

Military commanders had selected the sergeant's heavily armored brigade for a critical crackdown on Shiite militiamen in the epicenter of Baghdad's sectarian violence: the dangerous, 2 million-person slum of Sadr City.

It was there Sunday that a homemade bomb detonated near Sergeant Davis' eight-wheel, 19-ton Stryker Armored Vehicle, killing the 32-year-old and injuring two other soldiers, one severely.

"He was mad, very disappointed that he couldn't come home," his older brother, James "Andy" Davis, said yesterday. "But he knew they had a job to do. He wanted to stay with the guys he had been with. They needed him if they got hurt."

The last-minute extension of duty took members of the Alaska-based 172nd Stryker Brigade by surprise.

Sergeant Davis, who married his second wife, Roberta, in Alaska last year, delivered the news in a phone call home to his mother.

She relayed the news to the nearby Lisbon Volunteer Fire Station, where Sergeant Davis began working after graduating from Glenelg High School in 1991.

Yesterday, members of the Lisbon fire company remembered him as an eager volunteer, among the first to arrive in his pickup truck whenever the station's siren would sound.

"He wanted to get into the military because he wanted to be a career firefighter," said Capt. Jim Baker, who had been sitting down at the station's computer to send his friend an e-mail when a fellow volunteer broke the news of Sergeant Davis' death.

"The fire service looks at the military as something good and could be a deciding factor in getting a job," said Captain Baker. "It's good training."

He said that when Sergeant Davis was just 18 years old, he took him under his wing as a new volunteer, getting him accustomed to the firehouse.

At that time, Sergeant Davis' life centered around "the firehouse, girls, like all 18-year-old boys, and he was big into rodeos," Captain Baker said.

"He mostly watched [rodeo]. I think he rode a few times and got knocked around," Captain Baker recalled.

Captain Baker and Andy Davis described Sergeant Davis as a "country boy." He loved country music and trucks and was most at home in a cowboy hat, boots and jeans, they said.

Before joining the Army, he worked on his brother's cattle farm in Emmitsburg, did construction work and drove tractor-trailers.

As a "thunderhorse," or dismount medic in Iraq, Sergeant Davis cared for injured soldiers on the scene of any medical emergency.

"That EMT training he used in the Army, he first received as a volunteer firefighter," his brother said said.

He said his younger brother rarely spoke about the stress of battle.

The soldier's e-mail correspondence mostly centered on packages bringing the comforts of home that would make what he planned to be his final year in the Army more tolerable.

From an October 2005 message: "It's 120 degrees during the day and 60 degrees at night. Thanks for the package. My buddy Ray-Ray gave me some ideas for care packages. I'd like to have some handy snacks, cheese and crackers, Strawberry Twizzlers, gummy bears, Ding Dongs, May Day candy bars, Chex Mix, Planters peanuts and also some more baby wipes."

Sergeant Davis used the wipes to clean the sweat and sand off his large, black protective goggles.

The family is waiting for the remains to be delivered to Dover, Del.

Funeral arrangements, which are being handled by Stauffer Funeral Home in Mount Airy, were not final yesterday.

In addition to his brother and his wife, he is survived by his parents, Jim and Josephine Davis of Lisbon; and two sisters, Helen Blair of Virginia Beach, Va., and Theresa Hadley of Hagerstown.

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