In the Montesano, Wash., gymnasium where he once excelled as a high school wrestler, Air Force Staff Sgt. Timothy Davis of Spokane on Saturday was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star for valor and a Purple Heart.
The medals were presented to his wife, Meagan Davis.
Timothy Davis, 28, who was born in Montesano and trained at Fairchild Air Force Base, was killed Feb. 20 in the Oruzgan province of Afghanstan as the result of injuries received from a bomb planted by insurgents. In a ceremony at Montesano Junior Senior High School, family members, friends and his brothers in arms mourned his loss and celebrated his accomplished life. Davis graduated from the high school in 1999.
Davis was a combat controller, part of the Special Forces – an elite group with only 300 members. At least 80 of them, in red berets, came to pay their respects, along with many of their peers.
“He was the mentally strongest person I have ever known,” said Jesse Huggins, Davis’ best friend since Little League. “There are things that in life are so difficult, no one else is willing to volunteer for. He would.”
Friend Matt Mensch, also in the Air Force, said he and Davis paired up in training. It was hard on him, Mensch said, because Davis was so good at everything. And while at first he thought Davis was a bit conceited, he learned to respect his fellow soldier.
“There’s a difference between being cocky and being competent,” Mensch said. “Whatever he did, he did it right.”
Friend Shaun Straka said he and Davis had kidded each other about who had the tougher row to hoe – Davis in combat or Straka with five kids and another on the way – when they met while Davis recuperated from a war injury. Davis was certain Straka had a worse job.
“He jokingly chose war,” Straka said, tears filling the large man’s eyes. “If I had known that would be the last time I saw him I would have given him a hug and thanked him for everything he’d done.”
The ceremony was preceded by a private viewing in the choir room. There, Mike Gregoire, husband of Gov. Chris Gregoire, presented Davis’ mother, Sally Sheldon of Aberdeen, and his young widow with state flags and citations honoring Davis’ service.
“This flag is a tribute from everyone in the state,” Gregoire told the women. Stories of Davis’ exploits were legion at Saturday’s service. Davis was physical from an early age. Father Mike Davis recalled a time when he couldn’t find Tim, who could not yet walk, so he frantically checked under beds and behind furniture.
“I was looking too low. Tim had figured out how to use drawers to climb on counters, and he was in the kitchen eating cookies,” Mike Davis recalled.
At the funeral, Meagan Davis was presented with two medals her husband was awarded posthumously: a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. The citation for the Bronze Star was for an incident in which Davis’ team, searching for an insurgent in a Taliban village, was attacked by enemy fighters. Davis called for air support and helped his troops fight their way to safety, firing his weapon while dragging a soldier who had been fatally shot.
It was Davis’ second Bronze Star. The first one was awarded to his whole unit. He also earned a previous Purple Heart when he was hit with shrapnel. While recuperating from those injuries at home in Spokane, he was able to be there for the birth of his son, T.J., which his family and friends said was a blessing. The boy is about a year old.
The second Purple Heart was awarded for the injuries Davis suffered that eventually took his life.
Davis’ body was taken to Wynooche Cemetery, escorted by Montesano police, Grays Harbor County sheriff’s deputies, a phalanx of black-leather-clad, Harley-riding Patriot Guard riders and a flyover by a military plane.
As Davis’ body was carried from the hearse, the Patriot Guard encircled the site with American flags. A military honor guard fired a 21-gun salute, and a bugler played taps as the Air Force jet flew low over the cemetery. Mary Sheldon, Davis’ aunt, said the family appreciated the turnout by Davis’ military colleagues, which showed how respected he was.
“He always wanted to be on top,” said Davis’ sister, Noel Carroll. “Top of the Montesano Villa Apartments, top of the Beacon School roof. And the way I see it, he’s in heaven and you can’t get any higher than that.”
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