Philip J. Lorenz III
Huntland native and Army veteran Ernest Davis is on a mission.
He is spearheading an effort he calls “Operation S.T.U.” to provide basic needs — socks, T-shirts and underwear — to disabled veterans in Franklin County and beyond.
Davis said what motivated him to take on this way of giving back to veterans was his own experiences serving in the military.
He enlisted in the Army, initially working as a military policeman, including garrison duty. Before long, he attended specialized training and became a traffic accident investigator and later, he became a criminal investigator for the Army.
Eventually, Davis found himself in a very hostile environment protecting the interests of his country. This experience resulted in him suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He was honorably discharged from the Army after serving around six and a half years.
He spent most of his post-military service time working as a supervisor at Tepro (then CKR) and his last three years for Nissan North America as an electrician, before retiring from the work force.
At first, he struggled with the symptoms of PTSD, not fully realizing why like many veterans did before it had been officially acknowledged as a severely debilitating disorder by the Veterans Administration and medical professionals.
“I didn’t know it at the time, it just slowly unfolded as I grew older, and (it) came to a day where I couldn’t go anymore,” he said. “Then I became associated with the VA and it was an alarming experience, to say the least. Our country had been at war for, I guess over 20 years now, and there are a lot of young men and women and older men and older women who are suffering from service-related injuries – physical and mental, both.”
Davis said he had to spend some time at a VA hospital and what he witnessed other veterans dealing with was a wake-up call to him.
“What I observed at the time was there were people coming in off of the streets because of PTSD or severe injuries from (their military service),” he said. “There were people who would come in, the police would bring them into the VA. They’d have to spend some time there because they got off their drug or alcohol program, and they’d basically come in like a pauper.”
What he saw at the VA was a sobering reality check.
“They were literally in filthy rags, they were homeless,” Davis said. “But what amazed me is every now and then they (the VA and supporting organizations) would come out, and they would give out new socks in the package, new underwear in the package, and new T-shirts in the package and everybody would get in line quicker for that than anything (else) I saw while I was there (being offered).”
Davis, seeking a way to help, realized a team effort was the best first step.
“So, I brought this matter to our church, Maxwell Baptist Church, and Brother Mike Robinson supported a small drive by our church and we gathered about two mail bags, large, large mail bags full of new socks, T-shirts, and underwear, and I brought them to (the) VA and everyone was elated,” he said.
U.S. Army retired Sgt. Major Larry E. Williams, adjutant and treasurer of the locally based Disabled American Veterans, Department of Tennessee, 5th District Chapter 71, said their organization has teamed up with Davis to meet in the Winchester Wal-Mart Supercenter’s parking lot, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 19 to encourage shoppers to purchase basic supplies for donation to the disabled veterans they serve. Williams and his co-members are bringing donated toiletries, bottled water while Davis is bringing the socks, T-shirts, and underwear that have already been purchased from funds specifically donated for those items.
All of the donations will be taken to the Nashville VA, the Murfreesboro VA, and Tennessee State Veterans’ Homes.
For additional information on this effort, or to donate items or money for their purchase, Davis can be contacted by calling 931-469-7708 or 931-691-4782 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and Williams can be reached by calling 931-924-3000.