TUNICA, Miss. (localmemphis.com) – Seven of the Davis brothers spent Friday at a casino in Tunica to spend time together and speak with Local 24 News about their immense family history of military service.
The Davis brothers; Octavious, Lebronze, Ben Jr., Calvin, Edward, Alphonza, Nathaniel, Julius, Washington, Frederick, and Arguster served collectively 158 years in either the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Air Force.
The Davis family grew up on a cotton farm in Wetumpka, Alabama, a small town 15 miles outside of Montgomery. The family is made up of 16 children: 13 boys and 3 girls.
Octavious Davis, who served in the U.S. Army for two years, said the going to military right after high school was the stepping stone for him and brothers to go to college and have a better life.
“We weren’t worried about whether it was important or whether it wasn’t important,” Octavious said. “We left home from picking cotton and get off the farm.”
Arguster Davis served in the U.S. Air Force for 23 years and said he was able to attend college with the Air Force’s tuition assistance program.
“I’m giving this part of my life to the military but I’m going to get something for myself,” Arguster said.
The brothers are a part of three generations of service. Their uncle, Master Sergeant Thomas Davis, is Alabama’s last Pearl Harbor survivor and a World War II veteran who witnessed the first bomb drop on the USS Arizona. Their nephew, Lieutenant Colonel Rynele Mardis, led soldiers in three Middle Eastern conflicts.
They saw action during tough events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, and the Berlin Crisis.
Frederick Davis was one the brothers to serve in Vietnam. He said he was scared at the time, even though his family members came back safe.
“Lebronze, Edward, Julius, and my uncle had served in Vietnam and made it back and I’m number four?” Frederick said. “That’s why I was scared. But by the grace of God I was fortunate to return.”
Lebronze Davis served 20 years in the U.S. Army and fought in combat in Vietnam.
“I always said ‘when I get back home,'” Lebronze said. “I have seen a lot of dead soldiers laying around. It could have been me.”
Decades after the Vietnam War, Lebronze received a call from his platoon leader, Lieutenant James Tefteller, who was trying to track down the men his men.
Lebronze said it brought him to tears to hear from his platoon leader and they reconnected after forming a lasting bond in some of the fiercest battles in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
Lebronze emotionally told the story of one of his missions when 116 American soldiers went into the Chu Pha Mountains. Eighty were killed or wounded, but Lebrinze was one of the 36 that survived.
Julius Davis served 11 and a half years in the U.S. Air Force and was one of his siblings to serve in Vietnam. He also spoke of the ugliness of the war.
“I got an injury evacuating the barracks one night after we came under attack,” Julius said. “So, I got a small scar down here, but Vietnam was no fun it was just something that had to be done.”
Julius said he and his family were lucky to come back from Vietnam and live fruitful lives.
“The whole bunch of us are all humbled and blessed one that we all survived and thrived where we came from and that we still lean on each other,” Julius said.
Nathaniel Davis served for three years in the U.S. Army and was grateful for the places he was able to go because of the military.
He said he visited Mozart’s home, the Alps, Hitler’s hideaway, along with other places across Europe where he was stationed. However, the brothers said they did not experience racism in the military, it was when Nathaniel came home and remembered it was still an era of segregation.
“I was still in class A uniform and I was sitting right behind that bus driver and a lady got on the bus and refused to sit by me,” Nathaniel said.
Edward Davis served 18 years in the U.S. Army and five years in the U.S. Air Force. He said despite all of his family’s service to their country, family is what is most important. He said their parents taught them good values to carry through life.
“We were taught to never talk back, learn to love and we didn’t grow hating anything,” Edward said.
Even though the siblings live all across the country now, they always make a point to keep in touch and get together whenever they can.
“At least once a month, maybe twice a month, we from each other,” Edward said. “It’s like a circle, so we always know how each other is doing.”