Davis devoted to serving country, others

Woodside man ‘go-to guy’ for veterans in need
By Craig Anderson

Vietnam War veteran and community activist Paul Davis, pictured outside his Woodside home, turned 70 on Friday.

Vietnam War veteran and community activist Paul Davis, pictured outside his Woodside home, turned 70 on Friday.

Delaware State News WOODSIDE – Paul Davis planned to spend the day after his 70th birthday help­ing a World War II veteran in need, not surprising to anyone he’s ever met during a life of service to his country dedicated to preserving the cause of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as the United States Declaration of Independence declared from the outset.

On Saturday, the patriotic Mr. Davis and several Kent County-based Chapter 850 Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) mem­bers were to journey north to New Castle on a mission to assist the man who said he could “no longer lift a hammer” and can’t meet the price tags of local handymen of­fering to fix up his home.

A call to Mr. Davis was all it took to schedule a time to take care of the neces­sary work, which would of course come at no charge. The tale repeats itself in the form of veterans young and old, such as the Marine sniper who returned home three months ago to a surprise party at a Sussex County fire hall that served as a free host. A call from Mr. Davis set that one up, along with so many others through the years.

When it comes to veterans issues, the Vietnam War Army man with a seemingly never-ending resume of deeds and organi­zations is the first person to call. During a 45-minute morning media interview ear­lier this week at his Woodside home, his cell phone came alive several times with incoming calls as another day of activity began.

“Paul has a habit of not saying no to people,” said Dave Skocik, president of the Delaware Veterans Coalition and Vietnam War veteran. “He will work very quietly be­hind the scenes to help and do what he can do through his resources.

“He’s the so-called ‘go-to guy’ in so many situations. If he can’t help directly, he’ll get on the phone immediately and call someone who can. He’ll either get some­thing done, or find the best person for the issue at hand.”

When it comes to big projects, Mr. Davis is perhaps proudest of the Veterans Memo­rial Park that now stands with honor on Kent County Levy Court-donated land that was dedicated on Nov. 11, 2009 in Dover. He was the fundraising chairman in a proj­ect that raised more than $100,000 as a sa­lute to veterans.

“Paul is definitely wonderful for the veterans,” said Joe Startt, VVAChapter 850 president. “He’s a person who does what he says he’ll do. He needs to be recognized, because he does a lot for veterans that nobody sees.”

United States Army communications specialist Paul Davis surveys bomb damage while serving his country during the Vietnam War.

United States Army communications specialist Paul Davis surveys bomb damage while serving his country during the Vietnam War.

Clearly, Mr. Davis has not rested on his laurels after receiving the prestigious Jefferson Award in 2007. The national award named after Thomas Jefferson is designed to salute elite contributors to community and public service.

Mr. Davis, regarded as a humble sort and self-described “country boy” who graduated from Milford High in 1961 and immediately enlisted in the Army, acknowledges that he’s helped in advancing the causes of many throughout the state. Personally and professionally, the man remains connected to a daily life of ongoing projects and calls to aid former servicemen.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of things, and turning 70 doesn’t make me feel any older at all,” said Mr. Davis, who is currently president of the State Council of the Vietnam Veterans of America organization and estimated an ongoing membership in at least 13 other groups inside and outside the military realm.

“I’m very blessed to have reached 70, and have had a wonderful life with great experiences. Actually, it’s all the stuff I’m involved with that makes me feel about 50. It keeps me alert and active, and that’s the way I feel right now.”

Maintaining a soft spot in his heart for those in need comes naturally for the man who had lived in 13 foster homes by the age of 4 after being born in Wilmington in 1942. Mr. Davis didn’t learn who is mother was until age 29, and spent another 20 years or so until locating his father. He finally settled into a foster home on a farm between Milford and Frederica for his school-aged years, then joined the Army in 1962.

“I think that background made me more caring and compassionate, and pushed me toward public service,” Mr. Davis said. “I grew up knowing what it is to be poor, and understand that not everyone in bad situations is a bad person; sometimes there are unfortunate circumstances that put someone in a needy spot.”

Ultimately, his wife Justine and her stepchildren proved to be a tremendously stabilizing force, providing the basis for a family structure never really known. They married in 1980, an achievement that Mr. Davis rates at the top his list of accomplishments.

Mr. Davis served two tours of duty in Vietnam from 1963 to 1965 as a communications specialist, supporting infantry and field operations in the jungles of the Southeast Asian country in the midst of a civil war.

Since he left the field of combat nearly five decades ago, Mr. Davis has watched as his country became involved in military actions thousands of miles from home and facing tremendously diverging national identities. He’s uneasy with the costs that the men and women who serve return home with, after what he considers actions that are based on control of oil interests and should be solved politically through a partnership of nations.

“I definitely support the military troops who are doing what they are ordered,” he said. “I do have problems with our country getting into combat action so quickly. The government needs to study the culture and history of people before we jump into wars.

“In my mind, the United Nations should be deciding the actions to take. A veteran who serves can pay a terrible cost for the rest of his life, and I wish our country would take a breath and consider the terrible costs.”

Mr. Davis returned home from Vietnam and followed with a 34-year law enforcement career as a police officer and Drug Enforcement Agency agent, along with running businesses like his current Woodside Mini Storage company.

He’s also past chief and 50-year life member of the Frederica Volunteer Fire Co., past member of the Kent County SPCA board of directors, Woodside Methodist Church member, ex-commissioner and vice president of Kent County Levy Court, member of the Kent County Planning Commission and many other past and present involvements.

Staff writer Craig Anderson can be reached at 741-8296 or canderson@newszap.com.

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