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War hero's new legacy
November 12th, 2012
06:30 PM ET

Always faithful: Marine veterans tend to hero's grave, cemetery

By Phil Gast, CNN

Macon, Georgia (CNN) - A smiling likeness of legendary soul singer Otis Redding greets visitors to the city clerk's office in this central Georgia city. Down the hall, inside the mayor's office, is a portrait of another Macon legend: Rodney M. Davis.

Both men were African-Americans of about the same age. Both men died in 1967. Both men are city heroes.

Redding and his music are famous worldwide. The story of Davis, who gave his life in Vietnam and became Macon's only recipient of the Medal of Honor, is not so well known, despite two monuments in the city and a U.S. Navy frigate bearing his name.

Vietnam, after all, was a few wars ago. Acrimony over the United States' presence there has faded with time, along with much of the bitterness once felt by now-graying warriors.

But the loyalty among veterans hasn't faded. Marines never forget their own.

Saturday morning, joined by Davis' family, a couple dozen Marines gathered near the grave of the comrade they barely knew, but will never forget.

Atop a bluff overlooking Interstate 75 in Macon, they placed a wreath and dedicated a 14-foot monument to Sgt. Davis, helping to restore the dignity that nature and neglect robbed from the cemetery that holds his remains.

They pledged protection to the man who, even in childhood, was a protector.

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Filed under: Black in America • History • Veterans in Focus • Who we are
November 11th, 2012
12:00 PM ET

A father seeks peace in a place of war

By Moni Basu, CNN

Atlanta (CNN) - Robert Stokely fired up his computer and began a journey to a place an ocean and continent away, to a land of parched earth and dusty brush not far from the banks of the Euphrates.

Yusufiya.

It is the Iraqi town where Robert's son Mike was killed on a hot August night in 2005. A place that haunted him.

Robert showed me his Google Earth mapping ritual the first time I met him in his office in suburban Atlanta.

It was almost a year after Mike's death, and he was tortured by the thought that he might die without ever seeing where his son fell.

Now, when I meet him for lunch at a sports bar more than six years later, it is as though a great weight has been lifted.

The sorrow of losing a child, unimaginable to many of us, never withers.

Robert still wears Mike's dog tag around his neck and occasionally sleeps in his son's bedroom, frozen in time with Mike's Green Day CDs and military memorabilia.

On a shelf in the room sits a round clock that Robert bought for $4.98. He stopped it at 2:20 a.m., the time of Mike's death, and in black marker scribbled the date: August 16.

Robert still does the things that made his grief so visible to me in the aftermath of Mike's death. But Robert's voice is steadier now. He can finish most of his sentences without tears.

I know that it is because of that place - Yusufiya.

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Filed under: Family • Relationships • Veterans in Focus • Who we are
November 5th, 2012
04:20 PM ET

A daughter faces demons of father's war

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - Inside a trailer in Honaker, Virginia, is a 5-year-old girl who loves lemon-lime slush. She sleeps in a room with a quilted bedspread and matching purple curtains. She adores her cat Tiger, dogs Smoky and Rusty and a black, pop-eyed goldfish.

Her family is poor, and she is eating potted meat, blowing away cracker crumbs that fall into her lap.

"Daddy," she whispers when her father, a welder, comes home. He does not respond. His eyes are wild. He collapses into a rocking chair, his hands trembling, his breathing labored.

She doesn't understand her father's strange behavior. It's as though he's in the grip of the devil.

She hides behind the couch, her knees press against the shag carpeting.

Later, she will remember this moment as the first time she was afraid of her father.

A hole in her soul

Christal Presley, 34, held her breath for two seemingly endless days in mid-October. In Honaker, more than 300 miles away from her home in Atlanta, her father had just received a package in the mail. It contained an early copy of Christal's new book. On the cover: a sepia-tone snapshot of Delmer Presley holding his rifle in Vietnam.

Christal had staked her whole life on words crafted from love and pain. But what would they mean to her father?

Would they offer comfort like the conversations that resulted in the book? Or would they act as another trigger point for a man who never left war behind?

"Thirty Days With My Father" is a gritty memoir written by a woman haunted by what some psychologists describe as second-generation post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Filed under: Age • How we live • Veterans in Focus • Who we are