A Veteran’s Story: Specialist William Earl Davis

On Presidents’ Day, I had the honor of sitting down for a chat with William Earl Davis, Commander of LaBelle’s American Legion Post 130. Davis joined the Army during Vietnam, against his father’s wishes, at the age of 17. He had felt the call to serve early on, because his father was in the Army. His father, who served in Korea and Vietnam, eventually softened and told Davis everything he should expect, hoping to prepare his son for the intensity of boot camp, and life in the Army.

(Caloosa Belle/Danika J. Hopper) Bill Davis, in front of the Barron Park flag mural.

When I asked Davis about those first weeks, and what he remembers about them, he says, “It was rough. I remember when I made a mistake, and boy that was bad!” But he got through it, with determination and hardheadedness. Starting out as infantry, moving on to mortars, and eventually having his MOS (military occupation code) changed to tanks, he describes every moment as exhilarating. “It was just in my blood, I never had a doubt,” says Davis.

Back then, the Army used a buddy system, to provide peer support. Buddies would enlist together, train together, and would be sent to the same unit together. Davis solemnly talked about how his buddy had been deployed to Vietnam, but tragically never returned. He also recounted the bad treatment he and others received while in uniform. He talked about the hurt he felt from being spit on and called awful names, and never received any sort of welcome upon returning home. This was a terrible but common occurrence for anyone in military uniform at the time. He then lifted his head proudly and said, “I would do it all over again. I have no regrets. I am proud to walk beside men and women who have served.”

After his time in the service, he eventually moved to LaBelle. He described quickly falling in love with our little town. He says one of his happiest moments is when he joined the American Legion, where he has been an active, dedicated member for 30 years. After joining, he kept his eye on an old gas station in LaBelle, and sort of day dreamed about how perfect it would be for a memorial project. One day, he saw the gas station being torn down and he decided to go for it. He worked up a proposal and began networking and gathering support. His project gained momentum quickly, donations pouring in, and eventually our beautiful Veterans Memorial Park was built. “So many thanks are owed to the community, all I did was give the idea,” claims the ever-humble veteran.

Davis is extremely passionate about helping veterans however he can. He works closely with the DAV and VFW. Knowing that many veterans suffer in silence from their time in the service and are often afraid to join or visit places like the American Legion or VFW, he pleads with them to reach out. He says, “Anyone who has served deserves recognition and support.” We are here to talk. We understand and we will never shut a vet out.”

This year, the American Legion is gearing up for their Centennial Celebration. There are many events planned that, are open to the public, including lots of delicious food, cold drinks, and live bands. During Swamp Cabbage weekend there will be a awesome dinner buffet on Friday from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., that includes fish, shrimp, beef tips, turkey, ham, and all the fixings for $10.00. Lunch will be available on Saturday. Sunday there will be am all-you-can-eat-style breakfast buffet from 8:00am until 11:00am, for $8. Pizza is available every day for $8. The Desperado Band will be playing in the air-conditioned lounge on Friday from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 4 p.m. There will be free juke box on Saturday night. Don’t forget that they have a full bar, with wine, and that all proceeds go toward supporting veterans’ events.

Thank you, Bill, and all veterans. There just aren’t enough words to express how much I appreciate your service.

Danika can be reached at dhopper@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment