BY SHEA ODOM
The Greenville Standard
There are 17.4 million veterans in the United States, according to a 2019 report by the U.S. Census Bureau. This makes up approximately 7% of the U.S. population.
More than 300,000 veterans live in Alabama, ranking the state in the top two-fifths of the country.
Jacob Davis, a McKenzie native, is one of those Alabama veterans. “I knew by the age of 13 or 14 that I would be joining the Army infantry,” said Davis.
Davis served six and a half years with the United States Army on active duty. While joining the Army was an easy decision to make, handling the pressure of being a young solider with a wife and child was not as simple.
Davis said, “I was a 17-year old soldier with a son and wife, so I felt I had pressure on all fronts.” While he was stationed away from his family, he was able to remain in touch with them through Facebook, Skype, and phone calls.
Though he was away from his loved ones while serving, he traveled to over 75% of the United States, as well as Ireland, Turkestan, Afghanistan, and Kuwait.
Serving in the military at such a young age facilitated much stress. However, Davis said he was able to find many new brothers and bonds that are still thriving since his discharge from the service.
Being from southern Alabama, Davis is familiar with the country and the wildlife often seen roadside. He recalled one particular event that remains an amusing memory some 10 years later.
“With this group of guys we had, it was always unusual and normally humorous. However, one specific event that sticks out the most is when we were doing a training exercise in the woods. We came up on a deer, forgetting that in most places on base, you are not allowed to interact with the wildlife. The deer are not as fearful on base as seen around in our local areas. When my buddy and I got close enough to make it uncomfortable, the deer chased us 20 yards or more through the woods until we fell laughing and screaming while it trotted calmly off into the morning light,” he said.
Like these, many other fond memories were formed while serving in the United States military.
Davis returned to his hometown and family to finish his college career in exercise science. He is now a local business owner in McKenzie.
He and his wife own Unkaiged Fitness, a 24/7 tanning and fitness center. They offer services such as Zumba, Cross Training, LifeAid products, unlimited tanning, and more.
Davis also serves his community by volunteering with McKenzie Parks and Recreation (MPR) as a football and basketball coach.
MPR president, Eric Gomillion said, “I have worked closely with Jacob for the past four years. He has invested much of his time and effort to help make our program a success. He is a trusted and respected volunteer for our organization. He takes initiative as a coach and mentor to the kids. He is a great person and role model.”
Davis feels his time in the service has impacted his life and forever changed his way of thinking.
“My service time has affected my life in so many ways, from just waking up with a mindset of no matter how you feel there is a mission to get done, to how I now relate to people of all backgrounds. I believe this is the most beneficial thing I have learned while serving,” he said.
Davis also donates to an organization dedicated to raising awareness and education on veteran suicide. According to statistics, on average, 22 veterans commit suicide daily.
Davis is passionate about identifying various support services related to mental illness for those who have served.
“Throughout my time in the service, I have seen, learned and experienced many things that have helped and challenged me. While I feel I am still rising, there are many veterans who are struggling. So, if you see a veteran, take the time to give them a handshake and a ‘thank you’; it could go a lot further than you realize, even possibly saving their life,” he said.
If you or a loved one is concerned about veteran suicide, please call: 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, text 838225, or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net. For immediate help, dial 911.