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Faces from the frontline 

Corey Davis, machine gunner 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Fort Carson Age 26 Geneseo, N.Y.

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There is little indication, other than his crew cut, perhaps, that Corey Davis was up at the crack of dawn, standing camouflaged and in formation at Fort Carson. The 26-year-old infantryman has changed into a casual button-down shirt and jeans. His 5-foot-10, 190-pound frame obscures a doorway as he grins and locks eyes before offering a firm handshake. He sits down and gently leans back, answering several rapid-fire questions with soft-spoken frankness.

His hometown is Geneseo, N.Y.

He enlisted in the Army around March 2003.

He felt a sense of duty to his country, as the U.S. began its invasion of Iraq.

Davis spent most of his first year in Korea with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, and his second year in Iraq. There, he was stationed in and around Ramadi, a place where civilians and insurgents, he says, "look the same."

Ramadi was a constant series of explosions and sniper fire. Because of his size, Davis frequently carried a heavy M240 machine gun, a devastating weapon that provides cover as troops advance.

"You get paranoid real quick," he says.

He remembers a vehicle bomb exploding about 100 meters from him while he was guarding a checkpoint.

"There was a fireball. Body parts were everywhere," he says. "There were guys crawling Americans and Iraqis."

Davis isn't sure how many people died in the incident, but he remembers other soldiers telling him the toll was as high as 25.

Still, no incident haunts him more than the March 28, 2005, suicide of Pfc. Samuel Lee, a "quiet friend" and "good kid" from Anaheim, Calif.

Soldiers were cleaning their guns at a Ramadi outpost. Davis, reading Sports Illustrated, sat next to the 19-year-old Lee, who was balancing his M4 light machine on his cot. Suddenly, there was a deafening bang a gunshot.

It was Lee's M4. He'd released a round by accident that shot through the ceiling. Almost instantly, a commander burst in, yelling.

Lee turned the gun on himself and fired.

"I was sprayed with his blood," Davis recalls.

Davis turned toward Lee just briefly, but long enough to see the baseball-sized hole through his head. As Lee's knees buckled, his finger, still quivering on the trigger, sent another blast from the gun, this time striking Davis' M4, shattering its butt.

Lee never hit the ground. Soldiers caught his limp body and rushed it to a medical evacuation unit.

Davis pauses to scratch his brow, smiling knowingly at the air.

"Then I went into the hall," he says. "It was just chaos. I tried to ignore it."

Days, or maybe a few weeks later Davis can't recall a combat stress team of psychological experts arrived at the outpost. They came not only because of the suicide, but because the flow of American blood in Ramadi was high.

The psychologists conducted a group session that Davis describes as "surreal." A few soldiers asked questions, but none that Davis remembers. He didn't want to show any weakness, so he left without saying a word.

The experts were gone in a matter of hours, but Davis remained for four more months. He carried Lee's gun, because Lee's last shot had damaged his own.

Weeks passed before Davis was able to wipe Lee's blood off the weapon.

  • Corey Davis, machine gunner 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Fort Carson Age 26 Geneseo, N.Y.

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