Soldier Killed as Relatives Also Serve in Iraq

Pvt. Steven Davis's patriotic family roots run deep. His grandfather, mother and brother are all in the military and, like him, are all serving in Iraq. On July 4, Iraqi insurgents attacked Pvt. Davis's unit, killing the 23-year-old Virginia resident.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Army Private Steven Davis came from a military family. His father and grandfather were veterans. His younger brother, his mother and her father have all served as soldiers or contractors in Iraq. Last month Steven Davis was killed in a grenade attack in Baghdad.

NPR's Jack Zahora has this remembrance.

JACK ZAHORA: Normally when a soldier dies in Iraq family members wish they could have seen their lost relative during his or her final days. But that's not the case with Steven Davis.

Ms. TESS DAVIS (Mother): I got to see him quite often. I got to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years with him. I guess I was a very lucky woman.

ZAHORA: That's Davis's mother Tess. She was at the Charlotte International Airport on her way back to Iraq. She's a medic and cares for the soldiers living on her son's base in Baghdad.

Ms. DAVIS: We didn't have to wait a week to see him. I got to escort his body back with his brother and his grandfather all the way from Iraq.

ZAHORA: Steven Davis might have come from a military family, but he never planned to enlist. In fact, the day he was killed he spent the morning doing what he did for most of his life: skateboarding.

(Soundbite of skateboarding)

ZAHORA: This was recorded before Davis entered the Army. He skids across a railing, flips his skateboard in mid-air and executes a number of tricks. He wasn't a pro but his friends and family say he was good. Unfortunately, a non-existent skateboarding career doesn't pay the bills, so he worked at a fast food restaurant. His dad, Buck Davis, says when his son wasn't flipping burgers, he got into a little trouble.

Mr. BUCK DAVIS (Father): I went away on a trip and when I came back he had put mag wheels and a spoiler on my car, which I wasn't too crazy about.

ZAHORA: Buck Davis says at the time he and his son didn't have much in common, and their relationship suffered from it. Then Steven Davis's longtime girlfriend got pregnant, so he walked up to his father and...

Mr. DAVIS: He just started asking me about the military's health care.

ZAHORA: Davis went from a kid flipping burgers to becoming a father, a husband, and then a soldier. His friends say he became the first one of their group to do something meaningful. And as he became more responsible, things mended between him and his dad.

Mr. DAVIS: As Steven joined the military, it kind of - it really seemed to improve our relationship a little bit. I think maybe I helped him understand some of my views and values and stuff like that.

ZAHORA: But in order to take care of his family, Davis had to leave them for the war. On the Fourth of July, Tess Davis said her son spent the morning whizzing around the Army base on his skateboard.

Ms. DAVIS: I thought that was pretty funny that here we are in the middle of the war and he's thinking about skateboarding.

ZAHORA: She said it calmed his nerves before he went on patrol. Later that day, Private Steven Davis faced a grenade attack. One of the explosives landed on top of the Humvee, where he was manning the vehicle's machine gun. Mrs. Davis is not sure if he tried to throw the grenade away or jump on it to protect his fellow soldiers, but he was hit with the full blast.

Jack Zahora, NPR News, Washington.

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