Eleven of the sons of Ben and Hattie Davis make up a uniquely personal “band of brothers.” Combined, these siblings contributed U.S. military service that adds up to 158 years.
Seven of the 11 veterans gathered midsummer in Mississippi for a reunion thick with brotherly love and military pride. They laughed and told stories, as brothers by blood and brothers in arms do. They reminisced some about being black men in the U.S. military in 20th-century America. But they talked less about racism than about the overall lack of respect for veterans among their fellow Americans today.
The Davis family consisted of 16 siblings—the 11 veterans plus three sisters and two other brothers who did not enter the military. They grew up on a 60-acre cotton farm in Wetumpka, Alabama. Their parents worked hard to provide for the brood.
Arguster Davis, now age 67, says of his parents’ example, “Their moral and ethical values were pristine.”
In 2017, the Davis men were honored by the National Infantry Museum Foundation. Their names plus the name of their uncle are engraved on paving stones at the museum in Columbus, Georgia. That uncle, 99-year-old Master Sergeant Thomas Davis, survived the 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Foundation president Pete Jones says, “Their sense of duty is unrivaled and is the kind of spirit that makes our nation’s armed forces the greatest in the world.”
As the Davis boys graduated high school, it seemed natural to them to enter the military. Ben, Jr., was first to enlist. He joined the Navy in 1944 while World War II raged. Lebronze, now 70, saw the heaviest fighting as an Army soldier in Vietnam. He says the jungle assignment taught him advanced napping skills for survival.
“I can go out in any bushes and sleep like a Holiday Inn,” Lebronze quips. “You learn how to do it because you are so tired. But guess what, you can hear a gnat go by you.”
The brothers don’t talk much about wartime experiences. One says he won’t watch war movies. He’s had enough of real-life violence. Though their personalities differ, they clearly share traits of friendliness, a strong work ethic, and mutual respect. They also share a response to the question, “Are veterans respected as much today as in the past?”
The siblings boom a collective “No” to that. Arguster says he is weary of the overused phrase, “Thank you for your service.”
He would rather hear, “Thank you for helping to keep this country free.”