By Nancy Kelly
Jim Davis’ life and his understanding of the concept of remembrance took a dramatic turn on March 6, 2006 when his son, Cpl. Paul Davis was killed while on active military duty in Afghanistan.
“Before that moment, I observed Remembrance Day from the sidelines, or watched it on T.V. I really had no personal connection of any significance,” the Bridgewater resident said in his address to students at West Kings High School’s Nov. 2 service of Remembrance.
The event, organized by students who attended the Nunavut Legion Leadership Training Camp in June, honoured Canadian veterans through student musical and theatrical performances and poetry readings and involved members of the local military community.
As a boy, Davis never failed to observe a Remembrance service and he recalled his own parents being very emotional on Remembrance Day. Over the years, he also wondered how he would teach his own children the importance of Remembrance.
“Mostly, I thought how lucky I was to be spared the horrors of war. But life can take funny turns.”
That turn came for Davis six years ago in March when he learned of his son’s death while serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.
“All of a sudden, I was no longer a bystander to Remembrance. Now I don’t just understand it, I feel it in my very soul.”
Davis spoke to students about his son, noting his life-long tendency to embrace life and never turn away from a challenge. At age 18, the avid sportsman joined the military and soon became a valued member on a new team.
“The military suited Paul and he suited it,” said Davis.
While the challenges of training for the Princess Patricia’s were considerable, his son never gave up.
“At his graduation I was so proud of his hard work,” said Davis, who remembers with clarity the day he knew his son would be involved in the conflicts of war.
“As I watched the Twin Towers collapse in 2001, I knew he would be called to fight in the war on terror.”
He wasn’t surprised when his son volunteered to be part of a special mission to search and destroy the Taliban.
In Paul’s emails from Afghanistan, his dad came to appreciate his son’s belief the Canadian military was making a difference in the war-torn country.
“Paul walked through the valley of death and evil,” seeing firsthand “there is real suffering in the this world.”
Paul’s final email to his wife and two daughters, entitled “Goodnight ladies,” was written the night before he embarked on a dangerous mission. His voice breaking, Davis read a portion of the email in which his son looked forward to coming home every day and his constant thoughts of his family.
“I will be thinking of you when I go to sleep,” wrote Paul.
Cpl. Davis’ death the next morning forever changed the lives of his family, friends and comrades.
Despite being devastated by his son’s death, Davis has turned his grief into something positive, by helping establish a peer bereavement program for military families and by personally sharing his son’s story with thousands of Canadians.
“This year, when I lay a wreath on Remembrance Day, I will give thanks to my son Paul for his ultimate sacrifice.”