Duty, Death, Dishonor

A Soldier Returns From War And Vanishes

This story originally aired on May 20, 2006.

At age 19, Richard Davis joined the military, following in his parent's footsteps. After serving in Bosnia, Richard re-enlisted and found himself at the forefront of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Just two days after his return to the United States, Richard mysteriously vanished. What happened to him only came to light months later.

Correspondent Erin Moriarty reports on this case of duty, death and dishonor.

In a sad scene that has played out in homes across America for the last three years, Lanny Davis opens a box containing belongings from his son's tour in Iraq.
"Richard was so proud of himself. He was a very patriotic young man," he recalls.

For Lanny and Remy Davis, sorting through their son's belongings is not just heartbreaking, it's baffling. That's because their son, Specialist Richard Davis, wasn't killed in Iraq. After returning home, he just disappeared, and no one Lanny has talked to seems to know why.

"I think everyone's lying. And I'll tell 'em that straight to their face. Everyone is lying," he says.

Davis grew up an Army brat in California, Kansas and Missouri. Being a soldier was in Richard's blood. His mother was an Army medic and his father, Lanny, spent 20 years in the Army, serving several tours in Korea and Vietnam as a military policeman. He saw combat many times, and suffered a permanent wound to his vocal cords.

In 1998, at age 19, Richard joined the family business and was sent to Bosnia for his first assignment.

"That's when they was opening these mass graves. And my son, of course, was there to witness this," Lanny recalls. "He had a lot of hurt in his eyes. He couldn't understand how humanity could be so cruel and mean. And I seen on his face he wasn't the same Richard anymore."

And yet in 2001, when his three-year tour was up, Richard re-enlisted and joined the Army's 3rd Infantry Division and moved to Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga. He was assigned to B Company, and met the men who would be his brothers in arms, soldiers like Jacob Burgoyne

"Three-hundred-sixty-five days a year, you're a soldier. You know what you're there for — to represent your flag, represent your people, represent your corps," explains Burgoyne, who was one of B Company's top soldiers.

Burgoyne, a gunner, says, "I liked the fast moving pace, I liked the attitude. I liked being in the uniform, looking good, standing tall and having people under me."

"I love the Army. It's like becoming part of the family," says Mario Navarette, who joined the Company in 2002. "My job, I was a dismount. I was riding on a Bradley, which is a fighting vehicle that carries personnel."

"I had a feeling that eventually something would happen in the Middle East, I mean it's a volatile area, been like that for thousands of years. Eventually we'd go there," remembers Douglas Woodcoff, who volunteered for the Army after Sept. 11.

Soon enough, they did head to the Middle East. On March 20, 2003, the invasion of Iraq began and B Company took the lead.

The company saw a lot of action on the road to Baghdad but the fiercest battles happened when they reached the capital. "There was blood everywhere," Navarette remembers. "You see people dying left and right. And that was very, very scary."

In the thick of it was Richard Davis, and Navarette says Davis was excited and not showing any sign of fear. Richard was also acquiring a reputation for being incredibly inventive.

"He had found, you know, a little head type nozzle and some old five-gallon water canteen, jug type of deals. And some old PVC pipe and made a little shower," recalls Woodcoff.

The device, Woodcoff said, was so popular that there was an hour or two wait just to take a two minute shower.