Soldier's Family Remembers A Devoted Perfectionist

Master Sgt. Anthony Davis with his wife, Anna, and children Diana and Mark. i i

Master Sgt. Anthony Davis served as an intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army for the majority of his 24-year career. Davis is shown here with his wife, Anna, and children Marc and Diana on vacation in the Dominican Republic. Courtesy of Anna Davis hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Anna Davis
Master Sgt. Anthony Davis with his wife, Anna, and children Diana and Mark.

Master Sgt. Anthony Davis served as an intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army for the majority of his 24-year career. Davis is shown here with his wife, Anna, and children Marc and Diana on vacation in the Dominican Republic.

Courtesy of Anna Davis

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After Master Sgt. Anthony Davis' death in Iraq on Nov. 25, his family received hundreds of sympathy cards at their home in Triangle, Va. But one card that showed up in the mailbox took his wife, Anna Davis, by surprise.

"This is the last card that he sent me," she says. "When it came in the mail, I started crying and crying and crying."

Anna says her husband would take hours to pick out the perfect card for each member of his family — no easy task, considering he had 16 siblings and five children. And Anna knows how hard it can be to find a good greeting card in the Iraqi desert — she served there in 2006.

"It's nothing but desert out there — there's nothing," she says. "Yet my husband, even out there, manages to find the perfect card to send his wife."

His family says that's just the way Davis was — a perfectionist — committed to detail and committed to them. He was known especially for his infamous pep talks. When 18-year-old Diana's grades started slipping, her dad delivered his last pep talk over the phone from Iraq. Diana says the theme was "struggles."

"He started speaking about how maybe I need to struggle a little bit in order to understand how important my education is, and how important doing well in school is and succeeding is when it comes to the real world," she says. "And so, about a week and a half later, I was hit with this. It's almost ironic that this is what my struggle is going to be: getting through the days without him."

Davis, 43, enlisted in 1984 and spent the majority of his career as an intelligence analyst for the Army, serving many deployments in countries around the world. On this tour, he was part of a team that trained Iraqi soldiers and delivered aid to civilians. They were delivering food to a village when Davis was shot by a member of the Iraqi security forces.

When he wasn't deployed or working, you might have found Davis running with Diana on a Sunday morning or Latin dancing with his wife. Otherwise, Anna says, you probably would have found her husband "bowling with the boys" — his favorite pastime.

If you watch a video of Davis bowling, you can see the different facets of his personality. His form is so painstakingly consistent, he almost looks like the statuette on top of a bowling trophy.

But in the moments when Davis is not up, you see him cheering on the other bowlers, or teaching a friend how to hold the ball properly. And when someone falls down, he's the first one rushing to help.

Since his death, Anna and her family have been watching videos like these, thankful that Davis was a compulsive home videographer. But nothing has given Anna quite as much solace as her husband's final card to her.

"This card has comforted me in ways that no one else has been able to comfort me," she says. "Simply because I knew that he took whatever little bit of extra time he had to find this card. And just the first sentence, you know — 'Don't try to predict it. Love never happens according to plan' — just makes me think about how our love ended."

Anna pauses. "Definitely not according to plan," she says.

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