Robert Davis of Jackson, just promoted to sergeant, was on his second tour of duty.
War reached across the globe to Jackson Thursday, taking a local soldier's life days after he visited his new son.
Sgt. Robert G. Davis, 23, who grew up in Jackson, died in Afghanistan Thursday when a roadside bomb exploded near his armored vehicle. The bomb also took the life of Lt. Laura M. Walker of Texas and wounded two others, the Department of Defense reported.
Davis is the first Southeast Missouri war death since Vietnam.
The death has devastated the family, said Brenda Holmes, an aunt who lives in Granite City, Ill. Davis had found a home in the Army, she said. He joined the army soon after high school, married his high school sweetheart and recently became a father.
"This kid had his life all planned out," she said.
Davis' wife Amanda Davis gave birth to Brayden Noah Davis on April 28. Holmes said the couple visited her with the newborn during a two-week leave he took to see his new child at the end of July.
"They were hand-in-hand the whole time they were here," Holmes said. "They were blooming."
Davis was the son of Judy Oberts of Cape Girardeau and Jimmy Davis of Sandoval, Ill.
The death of his son left Jimmy Davis deeply hurt and angry at the government that sent his son to war. The last time he saw his son, Jimmy Davis said, was during that recent visit to see Brayden.
Davis was on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan, Holmes said. His unit, the 864th Engineer Combat Battalion out of Fort Lewis, Wash., was working to complete a major new highway through the mountains of eastern Afghanistan.
The deaths of Davis and Walker bring total U.S. combat deaths in the nearly four-year war in Afghanistan to 226. Eight U.S. soldiers have been killed there this month.
Davis volunteered for duty in Afghanistan on this tour, Holmes aid. Family members urged him not to go.
"We told him, 'Bobby, don't go back over there,'" Holmes said. "But he said, 'I'm OK. And when I get back I'm going to re-enlist and that is what I am going to do with the rest of my life.'"
To make life in the rough Afghan countryside easier, Holmes said she volunteered to send Davis whatever he needed. Choking back her grief, she said he told her that he didn't need anything. But Afghan children did.
Afghan children wear sandals -- if they were shoes at all -- and most don't have any, Holmes said Davis told her. "If you want to send anything, send them kids something to wear, he told me."
Holmes said she had begun to put together a package of sandals. And she wasn't just doing it herself. She had enlisted a friend's aid. And she planned to go to St. Louis-area radio station WIL, which has an adopt-a-soldier program, to enlist the station in seeking donations.
Davis had promised to send her pictures of the children who received the sandals, Holmes said.
The children in Afghanistan touched Davis, she said. He, too, was poor as a child. "He came from a poor family. When he wasn't in school, he was clearing fields, mowing grass to help his mother. He wasn't a lazy bones."
The road being built by Davis's unit will link Kandahar, the major southern city in Afghanistan, to Tarin Kowt in eastern Afghanistan. The group he worked with was called Task Force Pacemaker.
"Task Force Pacemaker took over construction in April, and we have completed a remarkable 70 kilometers of road work through some of the most difficult terrain the country has to offer," Lt. Walker, the woman killed alongside Davis, wrote in an article for the U.S. Central Command Web site.
Family members in Jackson and Cape Girardeau did not return calls Friday. They are heartbroken, Holmes said. The death of Davis comes as family members were burying Amanda Davis's grandmother, Alta Priest of Jackson.
Davis's sister, Brenda Davis of Cape Girardeau, is finding the death almost unbearable, Holmes said.
"She keeps saying that tomorrow they are going to come by here and say they made a mistake and tell me my brother is not dead," Holmes said. "She said she is mad. I am mad. You are going to go through the changes of being mad and it is not going to go away. We lost a good kid over there and it is not going to get any better."
Sam Blackwell, Aurora Miller and Jason Tyler of the Southeast Missourian contributed to this report.
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