Boys learn to cope in Oswego after mother dies a war hero

Erin Place

This year is going to be different for the Davis family. There will be no more letters home or leave visits, only pictures and memories of Carletta Davis.

Davis, 34, was killed by a roadside bomb when she was on a mission near Kirkuk, Iraq on Nov. 5. The explosion killed three other soldiers from Fort Drum. Carletta left behind her husband, Thomas, 35, and her three sons, Treyton, 14, Theodore, 13, and Tyrique, 9.

Carletta arrived at Fort Drum in Watertown in April 2007 and was assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team where she served as a ground medic. When Carletta first came to the fort, the boys were living with their grandmother and Carletta’s mother, Lavada Napier, in Fair Banks, Alaska, while Thomas finished his medical internship at the University of Washington.

Carletta was deployed to Iraq for her third tour in September. According to Napier, Thomas and the boys tried to make it to Fort Drum before Carletta was shipped out.

“When he made the decision to drive to New York from Washington,” Napier said, “he missed her by one day.” This was the family’s last chance to see Carletta until December 2008 when she was scheduled to return to the states. “I feel kind of left out,” Treyton said. “I didn’t get to say goodbye to Mom.”

Thomas decided to move his family to Oswego in September so they could be closer to Carletta when she was stationed at Fort Drum. Thomas works as a physician’s assistant in the operating room at the Oswego Hospital. He said he interviewed with a number of hospitals in the area and took a job with Oswego Health. “Oswego was the most friendly,” Thomas said. “The hospital has been really supportive of me.”

Thomas’ fellow employees united to help him out after he heard about Carletta. “During this terrible tragedy, his new co-workers banded together to help Thomas and his family deal with this devastating news,” said Physician Assistant Mary Ditzer, on behalf of the surgical services staff. “Collections were also taken and some of that money was used to help furnish his new home in Oswego.” She also noted that others helped Thomas move into his house.

Carletta and Thomas met at Fort Rich in Anchorage and were married there. Thomas served in the Army from 1990-1994 and Carletta joined in October 1994. She served in numerous places around the world including Bosnia, South Korea and Iraq. Thomas commented on his wife’s third deployment to Iraq. “It is a lot of tours, a lot of people are going over there more than one time,” he said. Thomas also noted that Carletta knew a man who had been to Iraq five times.

Throughout her military career Carletta was awarded numerous medals including the Army Good Conduct medal, the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the Skiorsky Aircraft Rescue Award, Korea Defense Service medal, Soldier of the Month Award, the Iraq Campaign medal, Expert Medical Field badge and the Overseas Service Ribbon. This is only a portion of the awards and medals she received. “She was really a top notch soldier,” Thomas said. He also spoke of a letter of recommendation his wife received after she saved an Iraqi soldier’s life when he was “basically blown apart by an IED” (Improvised Explosion Device).

As far as his sons go, Thomas said they all choose to grieve their mother’s death in their own way. He said his sons grades are slowly improving and that they are not acting out at home. He also noted that his youngest son, Tyrique, is “doing phenomenal” in school. All three of the brothers said that they enjoy going to school in Oswego. “It was pretty bad in the beginning,” Thomas said. “We’re starting to get around it more.”

Napier is also dealing with the grief of her daughter’s death in her own way. She said once this happened to her daughter she started paying attention to the Internet to see how similar circumstances affected other families. “I just take it one day at a time,” Napier said. When people talk to her about her grandsons, she said, “I just tell people to pray for them. They’re the ones who are going to have to live this life without their mom.”

Thomas is unsure what the future holds for his family. Being part of an Army family included moving around the United States. The Davis’ have lived in Alaska, Texas, Washington and now New York. Thomas was going to purchase a house for his family to live in but there were too many things that need to be fixed. He has a lease for the house until May and is not sure if the family will remain in Oswego. “I don’t know if that’s right for me and my boys,” Thomas said.

On July 19, Carletta’s remains will be lowered into the ground in Fairbanks at Napier’s request. Thomas said next Christmas is going to be a challenge. “December 2008 is going to be hard,” he said. “That’s when she was suppose to be home.”