Master Sergeant Charles Davis, U.S. Army, and his wife Lori arrived at Martha’s Vineyard Airport Tuesday to a rousing welcome from members of the Martha’s Vineyard Seacoast Defense Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Island veterans, and first responders.
The celebration kicked off a five-day Island vacation for the Davises as the first recipients of the DAR Chapter’s new Wounded Warrior Vacations Program. The couple, who live in Fayetteville, N.C., arrived on a JetBlue flight from Boston around 12:15 pm. After landing, the airplane taxied down the runway through an arc of water sprayed from two airport fire trucks.
As the Davises exited the plane, DAR members on the tarmac waved flags alongside a color guard made up of Island veterans, as American Legion member Edson Rodgers played patriotic tunes on his trumpet. Several members of the West Tisbury and Edgartown police departments stood at attention.
Cindy Krauss, the DAR chapter regent, presented M. Sgt. Davis with a star-spangled, red, white, and blue packet filled with gift cards and certificates for a wide variety of meals, goods, and services. He in turn presented her with a blue and black patterned scarf he brought back from Afghanistan.
“This is just such a great honor, and I’m proud to be the first selected to receive it,” M. Sgt. Davis told Ms. Krauss. “I hope this is something the DAR chapter can continue doing.”
In a phone conversation with The Times on Monday, M. Sgt. Davis said he currently works in human resources in the U.S. Army Reserve Command, stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C. He coaches youth soccer in his spare time.
Sgt. Davis was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011–12. “I’m just one of the many lucky enough to go through a WTU [Warriors Transition Unit] and get the help I needed,” he said. “There are a lot of people who are a lot worse off than I am, mentally and physically.”
WTUs located at major Army medical treatment facilities worldwide provide support to wounded soldiers, including those suffering from post-traumatic stress, to help them transition back to duty or to civilian life.
Sgt. Davis said he was very surprised, and very appreciative, when he received a call about the Martha’s Vineyard vacation from the DAR chapter.
“When they made the offer to us, I thought it would be nice for my wife, for all she’s done for me and for taking care of everything,” he added.
Since he’s never traveled north of Washington, D.C., before, M. Sgt. Davis said what he and his wife are looking forward to the most is seeing a different part of the country.
“Which we don’t do much, because we have two kids in college right now,” he said with a laugh. The Davises have two sons, Brandon, 18, and William Anthony, 21, and a daughter, April, 32.
Born and raised in Fayetteville, N.C., M. Sgt. Davis joined the Army in 1981, right out of high school. He served a tour on active duty, had a brief break in service, then joined the reserve. Mrs. Davis has taught school for 30 years. She currently works as a second grade teacher at Rockfish Elementary School in Hope Mills, N.C.
The DAR chapter’s vacation package includes everything but the cost of transportation to the Island, Ms. Krauss told The Times in a phone call last week. Chapter member Helen Neuman donated the use of her rental property in Chilmark.
“For this vacation, all of us have dipped into our own pockets and bought gift cards to give, in addition to going out and soliciting donations,” Ms. Krauss said.
Although the Davises were offered a weeklong vacation, they will head home Sunday because of other commitments, Ms. Krauss said.
The project’s start
Ms. Krauss credited chapter member Doris Clark as the driving force behind the Wounded Warrior Vacations Program. It is modeled on the Corolla Light Outer Banks Wounded Warrior Project, which provides soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan one week of relaxation and recreation, as well as an opportunity to spend time with their loved ones outside the structured military environment.
“I’m so excited to see it come to fruition here,” Ms. Clark told The Times in a phone call Monday. “It’s a great thing for us to do, and we didn’t have to do any of the legwork, because the people in the Outer Banks had already done it and gave us all the information.”
The Corolla Light group provided Ms. Clark with details about their project, and put her in touch with their contacts at Fort Bragg and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to arrange for the recipient’s selection.
“One of our goals as an organization is for us to provide comfort for veterans and servicemen, so the Wounded Warrior Vacations Program fits perfectly with our reason for being,” Ms. Krauss said.
The chapter decided to start with one recipient this year, and if all goes well, to expand the program in the future, she added.
“We definitely want to get the word out that we are optimistic that this is going to be a great vacation and a great experience and a very worthwhile effort on our part,” Ms. Krauss said. “We want people to know about it, so that next year, if we come knocking, people will recall that we’re doing this and will be willing to donate a service, an item, a dinner, or a gift certificate when we put this together again.”
Ms. Clark said housing is the biggest challenge. “We’ll be looking for people interested in donating lodging during the shoulder seasons only, in May and June, and September and October.”
The Seacoast Defense Chapter
The Martha’s Vineyard Seacoast Defense Chapter is one of 3,000 DAR chapters worldwide. The DAR, formed in 1890, is a nonpolitical, volunteer women’s service organization dedicated to promoting patriotism, preserving American history, and securing America’s future through better education, according to the Seacoast Defence Chapter’s website.
The local chapter actually started life as two chapters, one in Edgartown and one in Vineyard Haven, founded in 1896. Due to dwindling membership, the two chapters merged into the Seacoast Defence Chapter in 1988. Profits from the sale of the two chapters’ houses were invested and continue to fund the current chapter’s works, Ms. Krauss said. Members now meet in each other’s homes.
“We usually give two $2,000 scholarships to graduating high school seniors every year,” Ms. Krauss said. “That’s a source of great pride for us all.”
The Martha’s Vineyard chapter currently has about 40 members, including seasonal and Island residents, of which about a dozen are active, according to Ms. Krauss. Any woman 18 years or older who can prove lineal descent from a patriot of the American Revolution may be eligible to join the DAR. A patriot ancestor can be someone who served in the military or in public office at the time of the Revolution, as well as a civilian who rendered aid to the military or contributed to the war effort.
For more information, visit the chapter’s website at massdar.org/MVSeaDef.html.