Soldier from Cumberland among the dead after bomb explodes in Iraq

20-year-old Army private was set to return in June after yearlong deployment

April 02, 2004|By Johnathon E. Briggs and Stephen Kiehl | Johnathon E. Briggs and Stephen Kiehl,SUN STAFF

A 20-year-old Army soldier from Cumberland was one of the five killed Wednesday in Iraq when a roadside bomb ripped into their armored personnel carrier, family members said yesterday.

Pvt. Brandon L. Davis, a 2001 graduate of Fort Hill High School, was traveling with four other soldiers west of Fallujah when a bomb exploded under the vehicle, according to his father, Jeffrey A. Davis, 42, of Cumberland.

"It blew them all up," his father said.

One of the deadliest roadside bomb attacks on coalition forces in weeks occurred as the soldiers were reportedly traveling through a dusty village along a supply route.

Private Davis was assigned to the 1st Engineer Division, based in Fort Riley, Kan., and was due to return home in June.

"He was proud to be doing what he was doing. He was proud to be a soldier, and that's what helps," the elder Davis, a car man for CSX Transportation, said last night. "Brandon would do anything for anybody."

So much so that when he was due for a break of two weeks in February, he gave his leave time to an Army buddy who wanted to return to the United States to get married.

The youngest of three children, he was remembered as having an outgoing, upbeat personality with a penchant for making people laugh. His father recalled the sight of him acting "goofy" as he danced with his 72-year-old grandmother during his boot camp graduation at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

Jeffrey Davis, who hadn't seen his son since his deployment in June, said he often worried about his safety whenever he heard news reports of soldiers killed in Iraq.

"Is it him?" the elder Davis would ask himself.

It was this time - on one of the few days he hadn't managed to keep up with the news, he said. "It's the worst thing you could have happen in your life."

Jackie Weatherholt said she last spoke with her son March 20 by telephone. They discussed the dangers of the high-risk areas into which he was always being sent, she said. "I said, `Watch your back, Brandon.'"

"It's terrible," she said. "He was my baby."

Wendy Davis, 21, said her brother dreamed of becoming a police officer after a three-year stint in the Army.

"It just doesn't seem right," she said. "He would hold the door for the elderly; he was always doing something for someone. He had such a big heart. We did everything together. He was my best friend."

Mike Bishop, who grew up down the road in Cumberland, said his best friend entered the Army shortly after high school hoping to find some direction in his life. He said his friend had worked various jobs, including at a blanket company and as a dishwasher, before enlisting.

"It was a really good move for him," said Bishop, 18. "He had a couple of jobs, and never really went anywhere with them. This was something to do."

Davis often called from Iraq and sent letters home. He never said he was afraid, but his friends could tell he was uncomfortable and worried. "I know Davis would rather have been back here than over there, definitely," Bishop said.

Employees and regulars at Lindy's Restaurant, where Bishop and Davis worked as dishwashers, sent the private a big care package before Christmas. It included beef jerky, little electronic games and items to remind him of Cumberland.

"He wrote us back. He really appreciated it," Bishop said. "Everybody's in mourning now. You don't think it's going to happen to your best friend."

High school classmate Andrew Delawder, a friend since age 6, said Davis was excited about his military service and saw it as a way to better his life.

The last time he heard from Davis was in a March 10 letter in which he asked about the birth of Delawder's 8-month-old daughter, Alexis.

When Delawder learned of his childhood friend's death late Wednesday, the news lingered all night on his mind. He and another high school friend paid a visit to the Davis family at 5 a.m. yesterday to offer any support they could.

"I just couldn't believe it," he said. "I still can't."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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