Two Cheatham County military veterans, Jay Davis and Hadley Williams, boarded a plane at Nashville International Airport on Saturday and headed to Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C.
Their special mission was to be a part of the third Screaming Eagle Honor Flight, which carries retired veterans to the nation’s capital to visit the nation’s military memorial sites where they can reflect and share with fellow veterans.
Both Davis, 81, and Williams, 82, were humbled and excited over the opportunity to fly to Washington, D.C. in the distinguished company of fellow military service veterans.
“I’m looking forward to seeing others and hearing their stories, seeing the memorials and the Pentagon, and I’d like to meet the president,” Davis said in an interview before the trip.
Davis served in the U.S. Navy from 1951 to 1955 and was discharged in 1960 after five years in the Naval reserve.
Williams, who served a total of 31 years as a member of the U.S. Army, Army Reserves and Tennessee Air National Guard, was also looking forward to flying with others who served in the military.
Both men have known each other for well over 50 years, and both expressed nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for each other, sharing an understanding of the impact that military service has on shaping their talents, skills and sense of duty to family, community and country.
“In those 16 weeks of boot camp I went through in San Diego, I became a man,” Davis chuckled. “We learned how to put out fires with everything from CO2 to foam.”
Davis spent a lot of time on ships from Southern California to the Far East in Korea and Japan. He also served on the East Coast of the United States, from Norfolk up to Newfoundland and even farther north.
Williams also sees his years of service as part of his journey to adulthood.
“You learn that you don’t make the same mistake twice,” he said. “I’ve learned neatness and the importance of putting things back in place. Whatever I say I’m gonna do, I will do it. You don’t want to leave anybody hanging. Honest is the only way to be and stand and support.”
One of the most sobering and stirring moments for Davis came when his ship was returning from the Far East to California and stopped in Hawaii at Pearl Harbor.
“There 1,177 sailors down there that gave their lives for us,” he said, as a smile suddenly broke through tears. “Then one of the happy moments was being greeted by celebrities when we docked in Long Beach. Doris Day was there to welcome us home.”
Davis said he is happy and at peace, even though he’s faced some rough patches with the loss of his wife, Ruth, eight years ago, a battle with prostate cancer, and most recently having to move from his home.
“The ladies at Pinnacle Bank have been so good, so kind to me,” he said. “My friend Doris Burgess has been a nice friend, a true blessing. I’ve been going to Bethlehem Free Will Baptist Church for 35 years, and Randy Corn is just wonderful. And Hadley — we have been good friends for over 50 years.”
Williams is grateful for positive reinforcement that has come through discipline and character building provided by his years of military service.
“That continues to grow as you serve each other and serve community,” he said, noting his natural entrepreneurial nature that includes landscaping, pet burial and cremation service, as well as coming up with a tasty recipe for hot water cornbread.
Williams cited the apartments behind NAPA Auto Parts in Ashland City as an example of his landscaping green thumbs.
Davis worked as a logger for 42 years and was also known his barbecue, which he prepared for Bill Krantz for 10 years.
“I loved the smell of the meat smoking, and I guess that’s the Indian in me,” he said, noting his Cherokee grandmother lived to be 95 and was a key influence on the importance of treating others with respect and fairness.
Williams said his last flight was to Chicago seven or eight years ago, while it’s been eight years since Davis flew down to Florida with his late wife.
The Screaming Eagle Honor Flight is one of many in the Honor Flights Network throughout the United States.
Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s veterans for all their sacrifices with a flight to Washington D.C. Top priority is given to the senior veterans — World War II survivors, along with those other veterans who may be terminally ill.
The inaugural Screaming Eagle Honor Flight took place on Sept. 27, 2014, with 25 World War II and five Korean War Middle Tennessee veterans on board.
Mike Flood, chairman for the Screaming Eagle Flight, which is based in Clarksville said Saturday’s flight included 25 Vietnam and Korean veterans along with one World War II veteran.
The itinerary includes a visit to the World War II Memorial, a drive by the Air Force Memorial, the U.S. Marines Memorial as well as the Pentagon, followed by stops at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Korean War Memorial.