CAMP AL TAQADDUM, Iraq --
Sittin’ in the desert, a thousand miles away from home, Lance Cpl. Stephen D. Davis, an infantryman with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, thinks about his lifetime and all the songs he wrote.
Davis, currently deployed to Al Anbar province, Iraq, and winner of a recent talent show held aboard Camp Al Taqaddum, started playing the guitar when his parents bought him his first one when he was 10 years old. After learning a few chords from his dad, he spent a lot of time listening and watching others play, learning as he went. He wrote his first song about his grandfather when he was 11 years old.
“My grandpa and my great grandpa were both in the Army and my great grandpa was in World War II,” Davis said. “He never really talked about this stuff all that much but my grandpa was in the Army during the Cold War and he used to always tell me he never did anything but he would always talk about the sacrifice people put out for their country.”
The oldest of seven kids, Davis said most of his songs are patriotic and have been inspired by war veterans he’s met and the stories they tell him.
“For some reason I can talk to old people better than I can young people. It’s almost like they’re drawn to me for some reason,” Davis said. “I like talking to them, I like hearing their stories and how stuff used to be compared to now.”
“Most veterans come up and talk to me after they hear my songs,” Davis continued. “They say they think it’s a little weird ‘cuz’ all the songs I wrote, I wrote before I ever joined and they think it’s pretty cool that somebody who’s never done anything wrote a song like that and they all told me that I pretty much hit the way they feel about things right on the head; like I’d actually been there or something.”
Recalling the first patriotic song he ever wrote, Davis told the story of a youth conference he attended, held by Tim Lee, a former sergeant in the Marine Corps, who lost both of his legs in combat.
“They were out on patrol,” he said. “One of his buddies was up in front of the patrol and for some reason [Lee] said he felt that he needed to be at the front of the patrol. So he told his buddy to get back and he took point. Probably ten minutes after that, he walked into a minefield and he stepped on a mine and lost both his legs.”
Davis went on to explain how he met a homeless man that same day who was a Vietnam veteran. He told Davis about the war and all the things that went on there that ended up messing with his head. When the man came home from war, his family and friends disowned him.
“I just had that in the back of my head and when I got back from the youth conference I was playing my guitar and just wrote down how [the veterans] made me feel, telling me their stories. How I could see how they felt about all that.”
“They’re just people doing their jobs, some of them volunteered, some of them didn’t,” he continued. “They were just doin’ what they had to do, doin’ what they were told to do. And they get home and people hated them for it. And they really had no control over it at all.”
“My family has always been really patriotic and taught me that what we have in America is not free. People had to pay for it. It’s because of veterans who fought for our freedoms, we have all those rights,” Davis said.
Davis joined the Marine Corps to give back to his country and to continue the legacy of all the men and women who fought for our freedoms.
“To me people don’t realize why we get to live as we do as Americans, so that’s why I did it,” he added.
When he went to boot camp, he met his brother-in-arms, Lance Cpl. Jeffery A. Cook. The two of them slowly built a strong friendship throughout their training time together.
“It wasn’t until [School of Infantry] that he and I became such good friends,” Cook, a machine gunner with 1st Bn., 8th Marines said. “We were in the same platoon in SOI and he just happened to have the rack right next to mine. We became closer [there] and after a few weeks we realized we had a lot more in common than we thought. Stephen is probably one of the most loyal friends I have.”
“We were like brothers and we were daily made fun of for always being by each other’s side,” he said.
With both of them raised in the country, enjoying country music comes with the territory. Cook said he and Davis used to sing together but he didn’t know how great of a guitar player Davis was until they got to their first duty station.
“At boot camp and SOI we would pass the time as best we could by singing every country song we knew,” Cook said. “When we ran out of songs, we just made up new ones. I knew early on that he was an extremely talented singer, so when we got to the fleet and I heard him play the guitar, it wasn’t much of a surprise.”
“I think like most people - when he sings or plays it makes you feel like you have something to live for. He’s definitely an inspirational writer,” Cook said.
With different military occupational specialties and being in different platoons, the two friends aren’t together as much as they used to be but they stay in touch as best they can.
“We still do our best to watch each other’s backs and I know if I ever need anything he is the first person I go to,” Cook said. “I’m sure he feels the same way about me.”
Cook went on to describe his brother-in-arms.
“He loves his job, his friends and his family,” Cook said. “He never takes anything for granted. Davis is one of the best friends I have. He knows he has been blessed by the Lord and he isn’t afraid to show it. If someone doesn’t like his lifestyle, it doesn’t bother him. He just keeps right on doing what he’s doing.”
With his love for God and his country, Davis is becoming one of the veterans he sings so proudly about.