Fallen GIs honored for devotion, dedication
August 21, 2005
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Soldiers filled the airfield’s Fraise Chapel on Saturday morning to honor two comrades who “lived to serve others and were dedicated to the daily mission as if they were working for God himself,” according to their battalion commander, Lt. Col. Paul Paolozzi.
Texas native 1st Lt. Laura M. Walker, 24, and Sgt. Robert G. Davis, 23, of Jackson, Mo., were killed Thursday when a roadside bomb exploded under their Humvee near Delak, north of Kandahar.
They were assigned to the Fort Lewis, Wash.-based 864th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy).
During Saturday’s memorial service, speakers told of how Walker and Davis shared a devotion to life and a dedication to taking care of the soldiers assigned to Task Force Pacemaker.
Davis was “a humble man who valued the simple things in life,” said Sgt. Wendy Diestra, who had served with Davis since basic training in 2001. “He had high hopes, faith and spirit.”
“He had a contagious good attitude about him,” added Capt. Gregory Parranto.
“He was the epitome of a self-made man,” said Paolozzi later in the service, explaining that Davis had to raise himself when he turned 14, then enlisted in the Army and married his high school sweetheart, Amanda.
Paolozzi, who was injured in the attack, spoke of Davis as an “aide, confidant, assistant and, routinely, a voice for the soldiers” who could be counted on to suggest ways to provide a little extra for task force soldiers, such as bringing snacks and cold drinks to the construction crews working on the 76-mile road.
“Yet he never took credit for anything,” Paolozzi said.
As the unit’s public affairs officer, Walker had worked to get those same construction crews — and all of the soldiers in the task force — recognized for their months of work.
A few days before she died, two of her photos ran in Stars and Stripes’ Mideast and Pacific editions and less than a week earlier, one of her stories ran in the Combined Forces Command Afghanistan magazine Freedom Watch.
Shortly before her death, Paolozzi told Stars and Stripes that Walker was probably the “best S-5 [staff civil affairs officer] he’d seen in his entire career.”
But it wasn’t just her professionalism that made Walker, a 2003 West Point graduate, stand out, explained 2nd Lt. April Kimble. “She made others feel welcome and feel a part of the team,” she said.
Though all agreed that her performance on the battalion staff was exceptional, Walker would have preferred to have been out in the field in a leadership position.
“She couldn’t wait to be out with the soldiers again,” said Parranto.
Though neither Walker nor Davis can be out with the soldiers any longer, Paolozzi said, their spirits will live on.
“These two selfless soldiers are still on duty,” he said, “watching over Task Force Pacemaker, and all deployed soldiers.”
Davis is survived by his wife and son, Brayden Noah Davis. Walker is survived by her parents, Col. Keith and Valerie Walker.