GAITHERSBURG, MD, USA U.S. Army PFC, COMPANY A, 1ST BATTALION, 32D INFANTRY, FORT DRUM, NY KORENGAL, AFGHANISTAN 06/25/2006
As she sat on her living room couch yesterday, surrounded by dozens of photos of her son, who was just killed in Afghanistan, Patricia Davis shed no tears. In fact, the strangest thing about the trim townhouse in Gaithersburg with the yellow ribbon on the tree in the front yard was that there were no sounds of mourning at all — only laughter.
She believed that is the way her only child, Private First Class Justin Davis, would have wanted it. The 19-year-old graduate of Colonel Zadok Magruder High School was a brash, outgoing young man so enthusiastic about kung fu movies and crunk rap music that he made his own videos and recorded his own songs. In his Web site on MySpace.com, he wrote that his heroes were God, Martin Luther King Jr. and Bruce Lee.
He also was just plain large. Before he went to Army basic training after graduating in 2005, the hefty, 5-foot-10 running back sprinted around the neighborhood and wrapped himself in plastic to sweat off the last few pounds he needed to qualify.
It was a decision he had reached during a one-year stint at the Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Virginia, relatives said yesterday. In the Army, he found a happy home, they said. He enjoyed the physical exertion, the excitement, the respect that wearing a uniform brought. When he came home, he’d visit Magruder High wearing fatigues and a tight T-shirt to show off both his muscles and what he’d become.
Despite his ample self-regard, Justin Davis was recalled by relatives and friends as an unusually thoughtful young man who remembered not only to call his mother on Mother’s Day but also his aunt. One of his last telephone conversations home was June 24, to give birthday greetings to a friend.
Davis was killed later that day. Davis considered his own unit — Alpha Company of the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division, based in Fort Drum, N.Y. — to be an elite outfit and was proud to be an infantryman in one of the Army’s most frequently deployed formations. In an e-mail to his cousin Kisha Spencer, he described what he did:
“Doin a lot of stuff cant really talk about . . . did some missions wit the CIA n other stuff jumpin outta helicopters you know doin the real job” — unlike, he joked, his cousin Sergeant Josh Spencer, who is an Air Force satellite communications specialist who has served two tours in Iraq.
His mother, wearing a black and yellow Army T-shirt, expressed barely a trace of regret. She said she will miss the noise he brought to her quiet house: the television, the music, the stomping up and down the stairway.
“As much as I’m going to miss him . . . I know he died doing what he loved,” she said. “I could have cried and begged him not to go, and he probably wouldn’t have, because he loved his mom. But then he would have been miserable, and I would have been miserable because I would have known I was making him miserable. I don’t mind you going in, but I wish it wasn’t wartime,” Patricia Davis recalled telling him.
“Mom, you should’ve had more kids,” he answered with a smile.