Paula Davis, mother of fallen U.S. Army Private Justin Ray Davis, sits alone at his grave in Arlington National Cemetery June 25, 2011, as she marks the fifth anniversary of the 19-year-old's death in Afghanistan. He had vowed to his mom he'd never forget his childhood memories of September 11 and enlisted in the U.S. Army one week after graduating from high school.
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.