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2 generations of veterans see memorials in D.C.

Airman, grandson united by honor, blood

  • n2honor

    Veterans Harold Davis, left, and his grandson, Tyler Davis, arrive at Toledo Express Airport after an Honor Flight to Washington. Harold was his father figure throughout his life and the basis for Tyler's decision to also serve his country.

    <THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
    Buy This Image

  • n2flight-8

    Navy Cadet Joseph Hines salutes as veterans arrive at Toledo Express Airport. Just two honor flights remain.

    <THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
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n2honor

Veterans Harold Davis, left, and his grandson, Tyler Davis, arrive at Toledo Express Airport after an Honor Flight to Washington. Harold was his father figure throughout his life and the basis for Tyler's decision to also serve his country.

THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Harold “Call Me Hal” Davis had a thrill of a lifetime on Wednesday’s Honor Flight Northwest Ohio trip to Washington.

For Mr. Davis, 85, of Holland, who was an Air Force tech sergeant during the Korean War, the day was extra-special because his grandson, Tyler Davis, accompanied him as his guardian. Tyler, 24, was a corporal in the Marines, a combat engineer honorably discharged in late March.

The pair represented two generations of military service to America.

But to themselves, their trip also cemented a close-knit bond between them that has been akin to a father-son relationship.

Tyler, a 2008 Bowsher High School graduate, was raised by a single mother, SueAnn Davis Rodgers.

She said her father stepped in and provided Tyler the male influence he needed at critical junctures of his life.

Accompanying his grandfather on the trip and helping him see the national monuments was a small token of appreciation from Tyler, who said he always has admired his grandfather — not just for his military service but also what he taught him about being a man.

“My grandfather was really patient with me. He really went out of his way to see that I would be a good person. To me, he’s got to be the wisest person I know,” Tyler said.

The family admits there were times Tyler was, to put it mildly, incorrigible and, if nothing else, frustrated and confused.

Many families struggle with male teens who walk a fine line between ordinary kid behavior and running themselves at risk of going down the wrong path of life.

Grandpa was there to help.

So it is on Memorial Day, the day America pays respect to those who gave their lives for this country, that the Davis family remembers the living, the bond between young and old that, while not unheard of, doesn’t come automatically.

Something between Tyler and his grandfather clicked, especially at times Ms. Davis Rodgers said she needed it most.

“It was perfect. It was so heartwarming. It was perfect for those two to do that together, for Tyler to honor my father that way,” she said of the Honor Flight Northwest Ohio experience, almost in tears.

If you had seen Tyler as a child, he appeared like many other young boys.

He liked playing with toy soldiers in the living room.

n2flight-8

Navy Cadet Joseph Hines salutes as veterans arrive at Toledo Express Airport. Just two honor flights remain.

THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
Enlarge | Buy This Image

His grandfather chuckled how the boy would have a fit when, after he had them placed where he wanted them, the family cat would invariably knock them down.

“Ever since Tyler could walk and talk, he’s wanted to be in the military,” Ms. Davis Rodgers said.

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, made him even more determined to serve his country.

Tyler was a sixth grader at Harvard Elementary School when those attacks occurred.

“The climax of my life was to realize there are people who hate us for what we have and want to kill us. We need to protect our country,” he said. “I wanted to be somebody. I wanted to do something that mattered.”

Tyler, now a Marine reservist, recently purchased a house in southwest Toledo. On Thursday, he adopted a beagle puppy. He plans to attend Owens Community College, where his sister, Sarah, attends school, their mother said.

He is employed by The House of Emmanuel, a residential treatment facility for troubled boys.

Located at 350 N. Irwin Rd. in Spencer Township, it runs a program that Tyler said benefited him when he was growing up.

“I’m trying to make that my career now,” he said. “I really help connect with these kids. I try to lead them onto the right path.”

Hal Davis said he was employed by The Blade as the newspaper’s chief financial officer from 1963 until his retirement in 1990. He is still a member of Block Communication Inc.’s board of directors. BCI is the parent company of The Blade and its sister paper, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

He said it was his first trip to Washington to see the monuments, including the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial, and the Korean War Veterans Memorial.

“They just made every aspect of it pleasurable,” Mr. Davis said of Honor Flight Northwest Ohio. “There were dozens of people when we arrived in Washington greeting us and the same thing happened when we arrived here. It was a very positive experience.”

Honor Flight Northwest Ohio, organized in 2007, is part of the national Honor Flight network, which was formed in 2005. The program flies veterans to Washington for a day to see memorials “built to honor their service,” the group says on its Web site. The only cost locally is a $200 training fee for the guardian, Mr. Davis said.

Mr. Davis said there’s “not enough words” to describe what the trip meant to him.

“I can’t emphasize enough how worthwhile it is for the older GIs,” he said.

Honor Flight Northwest Ohio’s final two trips are scheduled for June 18 and Sept. 24.

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079.

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