If Ryan Davis and his wife, Asia, could bottle attitude and a smile they would be millionaires 10 times over.
Actually, they are in a sense in that Davis is alive and getting to be with Asia and their 9-year-old son, Knox, after suffering a horrible injury in Afghanistan which left him a triple amputee.
Davis, a Sgt. First Class in the Army, grew up in Edmond, Okla., and joined the Army in 2012. He had made five deployments when the unthinkable happened in Afghanistan on Aug. 16, 2019.
While on patrol he and his team conducted a raid and there was an explosion with Davis taking the brunt of it.
It was three hours before the medevac could get him to the closest hospital. Davis, given a 30 percent chance of surviving, wound up losing his right arm above the elbow, his right leg above the knee and his left leg below the knee. He has undergone a total of 28 surgeries.
Needless to say, it has been a long and painful road to recovery but you could never have told it seeing Davis Tuesday morning at the home the Gary Sinise Foundation (GSF) is having built for he and his family on Channing Drive in the Buckhead North subdivision in Richmond Hill.
The GSF has been building homes for anyone disabled post 9/11 since 2012, according to Andy Jahnsen, Project Manager for the GSF RISE Program.
Michael Roberts Custom Homes of Richmond Hill is the builder and the home is at the midway point of construction. The occasion was a Walls of Honor ceremony in which friends, supporters and new neighbors were provided an opportunity to write personal messages on the studs that will forever be part of the Davis family’s future home.
“I think your mindset is something you are in control of,” said Davis of his upbeat attitude. “You affect people around you and with a positive mindset you make everything easier and better for everyone.
“My problems are very real,” Davis said. “Every day you wake up to them. You build yourself strong in character so that when things come up you can still be happy. You can still enjoy the great things life does have to offer inside of the pain you go through every day.
“I always thought of this as a token that our country asked me to carry and I will gladly carry it until we’re done here and I’m going to have a good time doing it.”
The GSF, Jahnsen said, has to date built 83 homes and currently has 18 recipients in the program so it will hit the 100-home mark in the near future.
“Applicants go through a vetting process,” Jahnsen said. “We accept eight to 10 applicants per year and typically we complete eight to 10 houses per year.”
The homes are all built to accommodate the particular needs of the person for whom it is being constructed.
“We look at each and every one of the families we work with and look at an opportunity to give them back the independence which has been taken from them,” Jahnsen said. “I’ve never dealt with the same challenges, the same needs, the same dynamics. We customize these from start to finish.
“We put a lot of time and effort into figuring out who the family is, what challenges they have on a daily basis and not just Ryan, but Asia and Knox, too. Ryan’s not the only one in this situation. We allow them to find the community they want to live in forever.”
Davis is looking forward to when he can move into his new home which should be in late September to early October. There’s no doubt it’ll make his life easier.
Hallways, for example, will be wider and it’ll be the first time living in a house where he can actually go tuck his son in bed at night. He won’t have to sit on the floor when taking a shower and he’ll be able to maneuver his way around the kitchen.
Michael Roberts builds, he said, six to seven houses per year but this particular home is a little more meaningful. And he’s grateful for the opportunity.
“It’s not emotional as much as it’s a lot of hard work and heart going into this house and love because of what he’s done for us,” Roberts said. “He was doing something where he sacrificed himself to give me the freedom to do what I love to do.
“I love him and his family and every nail and stud that goes into this house we care about,” Roberts said. “It’s a great honor and I’m glad they picked me. They interviewed other builders and I told them (GSF) if they did not choose me, I wanted to help in some form or fashion.
“I wanted to be able to give back in some way. I can’t give him back what he lost but I want to give him something he can use in the future.”
For those who think it’s nice Sgt. First Class Ryan Davis and his family are getting a free house bury those thoughts. That mortgage was paid in full on Aug. 16, 2019.
Photos by Mike Brown.