Being 'tough' is impossible advice to follow at funeral

Saturday, August 27, 2005

About 200 people attended Army Sgt. Robert "Bob" Davis' funeral.

When life got hard in the battle-scarred Middle East, Sgt. Robert Davis would tell his Army buddies, "Suck it up and be tough."

On Friday morning in the packed sanctuary of the First General Baptist Church, 200 friends, family members and soldiers found Davis' advice impossible to follow.

Davis, 23, of Jackson was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on Aug. 18.

Two Army officers remembered their comrade, who they called Bob, as a selfless man of integrity who was honest to a fault.

"He was a great soldier, and he was my best friend," Sgt. Andrew Casey said as he looked out at the crowded pews and at the flag-draped coffin centered at the front of the church.

"He knew his job inside and out, and he never gave a half-hearted effort," said Casey, standing tall in his dress uniform.

Casey said the battalion commander remarked that Davis reminded him of Jiminy Cricket in "Pinocchio" because of his ability to always do the right thing.

To his fallen friend, Casey had a message: "We will always miss you, and we will never forget you. We love you."

Lt. Col. Kent Savre, stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., served as Davis' commander for two years.

"His family, friends and classmates know Bob as a hardworking kid who grew up fast," he told mourners.

"I'm convinced everyone in this town is proud of Sgt. Davis."

Davis made a positive impression on everyone he met in the Army, Savre said. Last weekend, 800 soldiers gathered at a memorial service in Afghanistan to remember him.

Savre said numerous e-mails have been exchanged throughout the Army paying tribute to a soldier he called "an extraordinary man."

Savre said Davis, who joined the Army in 2001, enjoyed being a soldier. He particularly liked operating heavy equipment.

The Jackson High School graduate was an expert marksman.

Davis excelled at all his duties, Savre said. But his biggest accomplishment was as a person.

"Bob Davis was a humble man with a huge heart," said Savre. "He was always worried about the other guy."

Savre remembers when Davis was stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash., and decided he wanted a black bear skin rug.

Davis obtained a hunting tag and went hunting one afternoon in the woods on the military base. Davis called Savre on a cell phone about an hour and a half later to report he had killed a black bear.

"He got his bear rug," Savre said.

Davis, he said, was planning to leave the military when his tour of duty ended next spring. He wanted to be a heavy equipment operator and go back to college.

Davis saw his infant son for the first time four weeks ago when he was home for a visit. "I've never seen a prouder father," Savre said.

The Rev. Luther Rhodes, pastor of the First General Baptist Church, performed the wedding ceremony when Bob Davis and Mandy Johnston were married in April 2001.

"To know him was to love him," Rhodes said.

For friends and family, he said, the memories of Bob Davis won't fade away.

Said Rhodes, "Bob Davis will always live on and on and on in our lives."

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