Clarence Davis, a Vietnam veteran, was born in 1954 as the second youngest of seven children in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Growing up, his father worked as a truck driver, frequently relocating the family throughout the northeastern region of the United States. As a young boy, Davis developed a love for fishing and engaged in various sports during his upbringing. He was an avid athlete and actively participated in baseball and basketball during high school.

Within the Davis family, two brothers had already joined the military. One served in the Navy, and the other in the Marines. He believed he would likely be drafted and enlisted in the National Guard a year after graduating high school in 1972. But to his surprise, the draft ended with the last number drawn being 288, while his draft number was 322. Davis stated, laughing, “I blew it!” After spending his entire life in the New Jersey area, Davis was sent to Fort Dix, located just 40 miles from home, for his basic training and Advanced Individual Training (AIT) in the National Guard. Unfortunately, he never had the opportunity to leave Fort Dix, which disappointed him as he had hoped to experience other parts of the country and possibly even overseas.

After he completed his basic training, Davis decided he wanted to become a truck driver in the service, and he enlisted under a contract to switch from the National Guard to the Army. Once his training in the National Guard was completed, he successfully transferred to the Army. However, upon joining the Army, the military did not honor the terms of his contract and assigned him the role of a mechanic. Fortunately, by the time Davis joined the Army, negotiations had started to end the Vietnam War, and he was spared from being deployed to active combat zones. Although he was relieved not to face the perils of war, he couldn’t help but feel frustrated being stationed so close to home without the opportunity to explore different countries.

Davis served as a mechanic in the Army for approximately seven to eight months. Due to the Army’s failure to fulfill their contractual obligations, he received an honorable discharge after nearly two years of combined service between the National Guard and the Army. Davis was eager to leave the military and pursue a civilian career where he could earn a decent income and work in another industry.

Seeking a new experience and opportunity after military life, Davis relocated to Las Vegas, where his sister resided. He found work at a casino and enjoyed six years of employment until the establishment was sold due to back taxes. Facing the prospect of a substantial pay cut when transitioning to another casino, he decided to return to New Jersey to work at his family’s company, East Co Aluminum.

Davis met a woman, Sue, at his niece’s house who would become his partner for the next 40 years and counting. Although they never married, they are engaged, and Davis considers her son, who was two years old at the time, as his own. When his family decided to sell the company, he and his fiancé, originally from St. Louis, decided to move. The couple packed their bags for St. Louis, starting a new chapter of their lives together.

Clarence Davis and his family at the lake.

In St. Louis, Davis found work in the construction industry, specifically building million-dollar homes in upscale neighborhoods. However, around five years ago, his health took a turn for the worse. Diagnosed with bronchial pneumonia and emphysema, Clarence realized that a lifetime of smoking had caught up with him. Everyday tasks became arduous as his breathing became increasingly difficult. Davis confessed, “I brought it on myself, but once you start, it is hard to stop.” Eventually, he was forced to retire, as even a simple activity like making a sandwich became a struggle. Davis explained, “It takes me an hour to take a shower because I am huffing and puffing.”

Determined to find solace and tranquility despite his condition, Davis and his fiancé spend most of their time at their condo at Lake of the Ozarks. The couple loves when his fiancé’s son and family come from Portland with their three grandchildren. His passion for fishing continues, and he has even entered fishing tournaments. Davis laughed, stating, “I don’t win any [tournaments], but I fish ’em.” He went on to explain how he could fish from dawn till dark. However, it has become more challenging over time due to his health limitations.

While walking to the pool at his condo a few years ago, Davis encountered a man blown across his patio while attempting to light his barbecue grill. Quickly reacting, Davis rushed to his aid. His name was Carl, an Army Veteran who served in Vietnam. Davis described, “I went to help him, and he just seemed like a really nice guy, and I knew he was having problems when he did what he did.” Davis started checking on Carl daily, and they established a profound friendship. Discovering how badly Carl had been struggling with daily activities, Davis took it upon himself to assist him in various ways. He helped Carl with his bills, balanced his checking account, and even grocery-shopped and cooked meals for him. Carl, who had no acquaintances in the area, confided in Davis that he had moved there to spend his remaining days.

Davis soon realized Carl could receive assistance through the Veterans Affairs (VA). With the guidance of Veterans Care Coordination (VCC), and his Care Advisor, Jennifer Merrell, Carl became eligible for the VA benefit Pension with Aid and Attendance. This allowed him to access additional help, such as support with activities of daily living. Davis explained, “Jennifer did a lot for me; believe me, she did a lot. After that, he had all kinds of help and stuff. Whatever he needed. I tried to help too.” Davis confessed with a laugh, “I acted like his mommy.” He continued, “But he is a hell of a guy; believe me, he is a really nice guy.”

As Carl’s condition deteriorated, he was moved to a rehab facility. He will eventually be moved to a 24-hour care facility near his daughter in Kansas City. Davis remained by Carl’s side throughout the process, assisting with every aspect, including selling Carl’s condo to contribute to his care expenses. Jennifer Merrell, from VCC, stated, “Clarence is always working quietly in the background to ensure everything will run smoothly for Carl. He said he loved him like a brother and wanted to make sure he landed on his feet.” After Jennifer spoke with Carl and his daughter, she discovered that Davis has been in regular contact with Carl helping explain things and keep his spirits high. Jennifer exclaimed, “That is Clarence [Davis] for you. Always looking out for his friend!”

When Davis was asked what he learned from his time in the military, he stated, “I learned how to be a man and how to take orders. When you go in, you are young and dumb and think life is a big bowl of candy, and you find out it is different than what you thought.” The selflessness and dedication Davis showed to his fellow Veteran exemplify the compassion and camaraderie that can arise from shared experiences. Despite facing his own health challenges, he found purpose in helping Carl, ensuring that his friend received the care and support he deserved. Davis humbly stated, “I would do it for him again, and if another one moves in, I will do it for them too. If we all did that, there wouldn’t be no problems.”

Veterans Care Coordination is proud to recognize Clarence Davis for his service to our country. We are privileged to have the opportunity to share the stories of our nation’s heroes. Thank you for your service, Clarence, and welcome home.