(This past week), families across this nation (gathered) around the table to celebrate Thanksgiving, that quintessential American holiday on which we pause to give thanks for our many blessings as a nation and to celebrate that most precious gift of all, the love of our families and the fellowship of our friends.
Alas, there (were) too many empty chairs at the table this year as America observes the (sixth) Thanksgiving holiday since the invasion of Iraq. . . . Tens of thousands of American families (sat) down to a somber Thanksgiving dinner, their prayers of thanksgiving tempered by their fears for the safety of their loved ones.
Others, the families and loved ones of the more than (4,200) American troops who have been killed in Iraq (and the 627 who have been killed in Afghanistan), sat down to a dinner seasoned with sorrow, the empty chair at the table a wrenching reminder of the terrible cost of war.
~ Adapted from a speech by Sen. Robert Byrd (November 2004)
Master Sgt. Anthony Davis, 43, of Triangle, Virginia
Master Sgt. Davis died Nov. 24 in Baaj, Iraq, after being shot by an Iraqi Security Force soldier while he was conducting a dismounted humanitarian food drop. He was assigned to the Military Transition Team, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas.
Two weeks ago, Master Sgt. Anthony Davis was working with his daughter to deliver donated soccer balls to Iraqi children.
(W)hen Army Master Sergeant Anthony Davis informed his daughter Diana, a Forest Park senior, that children in Iraq were living in poor conditions, she was eager to be able to do something.
Besides collecting school supplies for the children, Diana Davis decided she wanted to do even more, something that would help her share her love for soccer with those less fortunate. The result was an effort to collect used soccer balls and send them to Iraq.
"When my dad told me there were kids over there playing soccer with balls that were low quality and some even had holes in them, I knew I had to do something," Diana Davis said. "Considering soccer has enabled me to find my niche, learn so much, and make most of my friends, I felt it was z, even if I didn’t know them."
Davis said she has made two shipments of about 40 balls each since mid-September.
Davis’ father Anthony, who said he would like to put pictures and recordings of the deliveries by his unit, the Military Transition Team, on its website,said in an email that he was proud of his daughter’s idea, which he says was born out of a desire for her to give him something to remember her by.
"She decided to focus on the children under age 13 and asked me if they liked soccer,"
Anthony Davis said. "When I said yes, she started by donating her old balls from around the house and asking her friends to donate theirs as well. I asked her what she thought about partnering with the MaxTouch organization and she ran with it from there."
More on the soccer ball project: Potomac Soccer Wire.
On the day before Thanksgiving, Diana Davis, her mother, Anna, and her four siblings learned that her Dad was dead.
Forest Park High School student Diana Davis and her soldier dad bonded through their love of soccer, and that shared passion continued when he was sent to Iraq.
The two devised a plan to deliver donated soccer balls to Iraqi children during Army Master Sgt. Anthony Davis’ humanitarian missions in impoverished towns and villages.
On Monday, Davis was on one of those missions when he was shot dead by someone dressed as an Iraq Security Force officer.
Davis, 43, was delivering food and relief supplies near Biaj when he and six others were shot, according to the Department of Defense. A Marine was also killed in the attack.
"The attack appears to have been unprovoked," said Col. Bill Buckner, spokesman for the Multi-National Corps in Iraq. "It is unknown if the attacker was an Iraqi soldier or an insurgent in disguise."
Davis, an Army veteran of 26 years, was serving with the Military Transition Team based in Fort Riley, Kansas, and had volunteered to serve on the dangerous humanitarian missions.
Diana Davis, who plays soccer at Forest Park, said she hopes to continue the soccer ball project in memory of her father.
Diana Davis said her father was always excited to talk about the soccer ball project. He believed part of his team’s purpose in Iraq was to gain the trust of children.
"We must remain vigilant and pray that we a getting through to the younger generation, who will one day inherit this nation, so that they remember us as peaceful and encouraging not intruders and invaders," Anthony Davis wrote in an e-mail from Iraq.
The soldier’s death sent shock waves through the Kerril Woods neighborhood, where his family lives
"Anthony volunteered for humanitarian assistance duty so he could devote himself to the soccer ball plan and really reach out to the surrounding Iraqi communities in need of assistance," said Joe Albuquerque of the Kerril Woods Homeowner’s Association. "That’s the Anthony we knew and loved."
In addition to his wife, five children and grandchild, Master Sgt. Davis leaves behind a large extended family in Baltimore.
An Army master sergeant who grew up in Baltimore and graduated from St. Frances Academy was killed Tuesday while distributing food on a humanitarian mission in Biaj, Iraq, the Department of Defense said.
Master Sgt. Anthony Davis, 43, had served in the Army for 26 years and was planning to retire when his tour ended, said his brothers and sisters, who gathered yesterday in Baltimore's Harwood neighborhood to remember the man who loved the Army so much they called him " G.I. Joe."
Sergeant Davis was married and had five children and one grandchild. Living in the town of Triangle in Northern Virginia, his life was intertwined with the military. His wife, Anna Davis, is an Army major based at the Pentagon. And his 26-year-old daughter, Keona Rowe, also has served.
"He died doing what he loved to do," said Adrienne Kelly, Sergeant Davis' sister. She said her brother, one of 17 children, didn't talk about the dangers he faced in Iraq. He didn't want the family to worry.
On Tuesday, Sergeant Davis was distributing water and food in Biaj, about 250 miles north of Baghdad, when he was shot and killed by an Iraqi security force soldier, the Defense Department said.
"He was Army in every sense of the word," said Jorge Tardi, Sergeant Davis' brother-in-law. "He believed in our effort over there in Iraq. It wasn't just a job. It wasn't just a benefit. It wasn't just hardship pay. He was a patriot."
Sergeant Davis' family learned of his death Wednesday. The large family usually comes together for Thanksgiving every year, but his sister said they didn't have the energy for it this time.
"We couldn't bring ourselves to cook. I couldn't get out of bed," said Ms. Kelly. She remembered going to her brother's house in Virginia for Thanksgiving last year, when he barbecued. When Sergeant Davis couldn't make it home for Thanksgiving, he would send everyone cards, she said.
Felicia Kelly-Crum, another sister, said her brother called her several weeks ago to make sure he had everyone's addresses. They expect to be getting the cards any day now.
In summer 2007, after his mother's death, he organized a family reunion at Fort Meade. He rented a bus to pick up family members who didn't have cars. At a park on the base, more than 200 relatives swam, played horseshoes and softball, and took turns in a dunking tank, said Ms. Kelly.
"My mom would have been proud of him," she said.
Family members say Sergeant Davis had been planning to retire when he passed his 25-year mark in the service. He agreed to one more tour in Iraq, though, before coming home to spend time with his family.
Master Sgt. Davis entered the Army in March 1983. He began serving with the 1st Infantry Division in January 2008, and deployed to Iraq in May. He had planned to retire from the Army after this deployment.
Master Sgt. Davis is survived by his wife, Army Major Anna Davis, three daughters, Keona Rowe, 26, Diana Davis, 18, and Kayla Davis, 17, two sons, Jeral Davis, 20, and Mark Anthony Davis, 9; a grandson, 4, and several brothers and sisters.
Thank you, Master Sgt. Davis. Godspeed. Your mission is done.
War, to those who must fight it and to their loved ones who must endure it, is painfully real and painfully present at the table, on Thanksgiving and on every other day of the week for the duration of the conflict – and sometimes for long after the fighting has ceased. These are the men and women on the front lines of the battle, and it is they whom we must salute and thank for their sacrifice.
~ Adapted from a speech by Senator Robert Byrd (November 2004)
The Vacant Chair (written during the Civil War; performed by Kathy Mattea)(h/t SpamNunn)
Remember them. Honor their sacrifice.
To date, 4207 members of the United States military have lost their lives in Iraq. Another 30,000 members of the military have been wounded, many grievously. The Department of Defense Press Releases, from which the information at the start this diary was drawn, can be seen here. The death toll among Iraqis is unknown, but is at least 200,000 and quite probably many times that number. Some researchers put the death toll at more than 1.2 million.
To date, 627 members of the United States military have lost their lives in Afghanistan. The death toll thus far for 2008 is 152. 389 members of the military from other countries have also lost their lives.
Other sites have stories, video, pictures and remembrances, including: Honor the Fallen. A group of runners is crossing the United States, dedicating a mile to each fallen soldier, sailor, Marine, Airman and National Guardsman. You can read about ~ and see photos and video of ~ Run for the Fallen here.
Assisting our military: Supporting our troops is the RIGHT THING to do.
You can send a care package. Please consider sending a care package for the holidays. If you can do so, please send the package by December 10.
You can write letters.
You can find other ways to give at anysoldier.com or Fisher House. If you have frequent flyer miles you would like to donate to hospitalized veterans or their families, please see Fisher House’s Hero Miles program.
You can help the left-behind animal companions of our troops. See how here.
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I Got the News Today is a diary series intended to honor, respect and rememeber. Click here to see the series, which was begun by i dunno, and is currently maintained by Sandy on Signal, monkeybiz, MsWings, greenies, blue jersey mom, twilight falling, labwitchy, moneysmith, joyful, roses, SisTwo, SpamNunn, a girl in MI, JeNoCo, mediaprof, Pager, and me, noweasels.
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As you read this diary, please consider that the families and friends of those profiled here also may read it and that many members of our community have served in Iraq or Afghanistan or have loved ones currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. As the very proud daughter of a Navy pilot, and the granddaughter of a Marine pilot and a submariner, I hope that the comments tonight will demonstrate our respect for the sacrifices of our fallen military and our compassion for their families; please reserve your political comments for diaries where such comments are appropriate. This is not one of them.