Devin Davis will not enjoy cake when he turns 26 today.
The sergeant with the 133rd Army National Guard Military Police unit instead remains on a clear-liquid diet between surgeries at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he is recovering after sustaining serious injuries last month in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan.
Sergeant Davis' path to this birthday began in Williams County and included summers in Toledo, before he wed his middle-school sweetheart and enlisted in the military. It is a story of heartbreak and hope, one his family hopes will remind others of the sacrifices of war.
Sergeant Davis completed a tour of duty four years ago in Sadr City, Iraq. He was deployed to Afghanistan in November following his promotion to the 133rd MPs.
About noon June 20, in a crowded bazaar in the city of Khost, a suicide bomber approached a NATO checkpoint and detonated explosives strapped to his body. The bombing killed 18 Afghan civilians and three American soldiers. Sergeant Davis survived, but barely.
Spokesmen at Walter Reed declined to provide information on his condition. Dale Gray, the sergeant's mother-in-law and his family's unofficial spokesman, said the soldier she has known since he was 5 has lost hearing in his right ear and gained a metal plate and pin in his left hand.
Wounds in his abdomen are infected and remain open; there is an injury to the side of his head, and the femurs in both of his legs are broken. Pieces of shrapnel remain in his eyes and torso. Nevertheless, she said, Sergeant Davis "is in good spirits, for the condition he's in."
Three days before his deployment, Sergeant Davis married Christie Gray, his childhood girlfriend, who has taken leave from her job as a registered nurse to stay with her husband at Walter Reed, in housing provided by the military.
"They'd been together for two weeks and three days since their marriage in November," Ms. Gray said. The last time the newlyweds saw each other before the bombing was January, when the sergeant visited to celebrate Christie's birthday.
Home is South Carolina, but Sergeant Davis was born in northwest Ohio, and his family has deep roots here. His grandparents were longtime residents of Toledo's north end. Sergeant Davis visited here each summer for nearly 20 years.
Tom Davis, Sergeant Davis' brother who lives in the area, said the effects of his brother's injuries reverberate in Toledo. "I'm shocked by it. I'm pretty sad, but I'm proud that he's my brother, since he served our country," Mr. Davis said.
That pride in U.S. servicemen and remembrance of the costs of war — including the 39 Toledo-area soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003 — are sentiments that Ms. Gray hopes all citizens keep in mind.
"There are so many wounded people and people killed in Afghanistan, but you don't hear about it until it's your family or your friend," she said the day before traveling to Bethesda, Md., with her husband to join their daughter at Sergeant Davis' bedside for his birthday.
Contact Jessica Shor at: email@example.com or 419-724-6516.