WASHINGTON – In letters home last week, Pvt. Brandon Davis described patrolling in Habbaniyah, a small city west of Baghdad, where he was deployed with the Army’s 1st Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division.
“The guys are just as ready for anything as I am,” the 20-year-old Cresaptown native wrote to his grandmother. “I trust every one of them with my life. As long as I am with them I am safe.”
But Davis and four fellow soldiers were killed early Wednesday when a roadside bomb destroyed their armored personnel carrier as they patrolled the city, an Army spokeswoman said.
Davis was the ninth soldier from Maryland killed in Iraq.
“He wasn’t a fighter,” said Stella Davis, his grandmother, who remembered Davis as the smiling young boy waiting for the school bus with his sister. “When they were small, getting ready for school, he would help her button up her coat and she would straighten his hair.”
She said Davis joined the Army in February 2003, because he had a hard time finding work at home. He completed basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri and was stationed at Fort Riley, Kan., before shipping out to Iraq in September.
His grandmother and his father, Jeff Davis, traveled to Kansas to see him last year.
“He looked like a different person,” Stella Davis said. “So proud and straight.”
Neither Davis’ father nor his mother, Jackie Weatherholt, could be reached for comment Friday.
At Fort Hill High School, where Davis graduated in 2001, Principal Stephen Lewis said he last saw Davis when the “ornery kid with the smile always on his face” returned to school on leave wearing his uniform.
“He was very proud and we were proud of him,” Lewis said.
Lewis said a large number of graduates from his school join the military each year and he does not think Davis’ death will stop that.
“We just don’t have a lot of job opportunity, so a lot of grads go into the service,” he said.
Lewis said “patriotism runs pretty high” at the school and in the community, but that there is no denying Davis’ death will be felt.
“All of the sudden we found it’s a serious business protecting the United States. The dangers hit home for us in a tough way today,” he said.
Stella Davis said she is proud of her grandson for his service to the country. But while she originally supported the war in Iraq, she now thinks too many American lives have been lost.
“The people don’t want you there,” she said. “Why are we losing lives for people who don’t want to be helped?”
In his letters to his grandmother, Davis told her how he was afraid of the Iraqi people when he went out on patrol.
“He said when you drove by, they would spit on you and throw things at you,” she said.
Davis expected to return home from Iraq by July, his grandmother said. He was up for leave in March, but he let another soldier take his place so that soldier could get married, she said.
In his final letter to his grandmother, Davis wrote that he was counting up the combat pay he would receive when he returned to the United States. He hoped to pay off a loan on the car he bought after boot camp and was planning to move into an apartment with an Army friend.
Davis said she learned of her grandson’s death the day after he was killed, when her son called. She said Jeff Davis had been to the doctor the day before, and from the sound of his voice, she at first thought something was wrong with his health.
“He started to tell me something, but I couldn’t understand him,” she said. “He was so upset. He told me Brandon was killed.”
The Army said Davis’ body will be returned in one to two weeks, Stella Davis said.
“It’s just really hard on all of us,” she said. “I really thought he would make it back.”
-30- CNS 04-02-04