Nightly News | December 26, 2011
LESTER HOLT, anchor: It has been a season of joyful reunions. Thousands of troops returning from war in time to spend the holidays with their families. But of course, many more troops remain overseas, serving far from home from home. Tonight we're shining the spotlight on one of them. Hit hard by the recession, like so many Americans, it spurred him to set off on a new path, in his case fulfilling a lifelong dream. We get his story tonight from NBC 's Jim Maceda in Afghanistan 's Kandahar province .
Specialist DON DAVENPORT: All right. Let's go . Let's move it.
Unidentified Soldier #1: Moving.
Spc. DAVENPORT: Let's go , boys.
JIM MACEDA reporting: US cavalryman Don Davenport 's world is a 30- square mile stretch of Taliban , poppy and danger in the heart of Kandahar province . But what D.P. , as his peers call him, lacks in rank, he makes up for in street cred.
Spc. DAVENPORT: We just got to worry about that hole right there and this tree line right here.
Unidentified Soldier #2: Hey, did they see that?
MACEDA: And though the insurgents got away this time, they left behind a slew of deadly bomb-making materials, making this mission worth it. Are you proud to be a grunt?
Spc. DAVENPORT: I am. I am.
MACEDA: But no ordinary grunt.
Spc. DAVENPORT: This about reminds me of home.
MACEDA: At 36 and on his first combat tour, he's years older than many of his commanders.
Spc. DAVENPORT: I know about life experience. They know about combat experience.
MACEDA: Growing up in blue collar Loganville , Georgia , the son of a wounded Vietnam War vet, he'd already had a lifetime of jobs when the recession struck
and pushed him closer to an old dream: the military.
Spc. DAVENPORT: I googled the Army . And I was like, 'You know what? Being 33, this is nothing. I can do this.'
MACEDA: In fact, there's little D.P. can't do. A specialist, he's also a sniper, a radio expert, and if there's anything on this outpost that needs building, say no more than D.P. But life as a combat grunt here has not been easy. Early on, his own mentor, Sergeant Amaru Aguilar , some 10 years younger, was killed in a firefight.
Spc. DAVENPORT: A loving husband, a father, a leader and most of all a great friend. I'll give you a call in the next day or so.
MACEDA: He's barely seen his wife, Mickey and two step-daughters, Ashley and Kayla , since boot camp. And then there's the personal risk. When a Taliban rocket slammed into the motor pool hitting D.P. 's vehicle when he was inside, leaving him dazed with a concussion. Davenport is pushing 40. What is he thinking?
Spc. DAVENPORT: He's no longer wishing that he could do something to make his -- make his family proud, his dad proud. He's actually doing it now, and for himself.
MACEDA: Trying, he says, to make Afghan safer, and so many miles from home, it's still the best job he's ever had. Jim Maceda, NBC News, Kandahar.