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While we’re bellyaching about prices keep the Robert Davenports in mind
vet hall
This photo shows the dedication of the Manteca Community Center/VFW Hall on Veterans’ Day of 2015.

Robert Malcolm Davenport’s teen’s years were spent growing up in Manteca.

As a teen he walked Yosemite Avenue that then doubled as Highway 120 jammed every weekend with people freely traveling to the Sierra or San Francisco.

Most of the time Davenport walked on Yosemite Avenue sidewalks was to partake of a free public education at Manteca High.

Other times it was likely to do things that teens were free to do back then whether it was catching a movie at the El Rey that is now being converted into The Verandah, enjoy a milk shake at The Creamery, or grab a burger and fries with friends at The Patio.

The odds are overwhelming you’ve never heard or even knew Davenport.

But he is one of more than 50 million men and women that you and I owe the fact we can freely travel about, enjoy a free public education, and are free to shop, worship, and express outage as we are today.

Davenport served America. And the price he paid for that honor as a 23-year-old assigned to the Airborne’s 503rd Infantry in the early 1970s was his life.

The sergeant had been in the war zone of Vietnam’s highlands four months when his squad was running point near Monkey Hill on a trail shifting through heavy jungle foliage.

It is when he suddenly detected motion in the foliage. He motioned to his radio operator the direction of the movement but due to imminent contact did not have sufficient time to alert the entire squad.

With complete disregard for his own personnel safety, Davenport moved forward on the right flank in an effort to engage the enemy before the point team could be brought under devastating hostile fire in the attack zone.

The enemy responded shooting him in the head. By doing so, he forced the enemy to expose their position and saved the rest of his squad from either certain death or devastating wounds.

Davenport and others who never returned home to mark a Veterans’ Day as well as those who did are the reason why 331 million of us are able to bellyache about the high price of consumer goods that are more plentiful here than anywhere else on the face of the earth, challenge and rip into the government at will without being thrown into the slammer, travel about as freely as we can without getting government permission, to basically worship as we please, and — if we so chose — opt not to participate in mass demonstrations of “national unity” as is the case in North  Korea.

Even if you share the opinions of the jackals roaming the bowels of the Internet whether they are on the extreme right, left, or somewhere in between that America is a hot mess you are indebted to men and women like Davenport.

To paraphrase Otto von Bismarck, democracies are like sausages. We might like what they are but it is better not to see them being made.

It’s a truth we often forget. Democracy by its very nature is a mess. But is the mess we must endure. There is a reason why one of the greatest debates in this land for more than 250 years hasn’t been about forcing people to stay in this country but whether people can come into this country.

It’s a point lost on those who think every immigrant is looking to live on the public dole or to prey on America by joining the criminal underbelly of society. They are drawn to America by the promise of a better life of freedom and the ability to have at least a shot at approving their lot in life and that of their family.

None of that is a possible without the concept of democracy which, like any other thing in life, cannot be 100 percent pure given there are 331 million of us in this country and 7.9 billion people on earth.

And democracy, which has never been the friend of tyrants, kings, bullies, and those with super nova egos, can’t exist let alone grow unless it is secured.

And it is not secured by posting on the Internet or published words. It is not secured in stirring sermons or teachers inspiring inquisitive minds.

While all of that helps people see the possibilities, dream of a better life for themselves and a better world for everyone, as well as question the status quo the cold-hard truth is the freedoms we either cherish or simply take for granted would not exist unless they are secured by a standing military.

If America is a hot mess then the world is quicksand pulling mankind down toward even more hellish mess. That’s because there are those out there who want to impose their will on others whether they are individuals, of a different faith or ethnicity, or simply disagree with them. That has always been the case. It is the case. It is likely to be the case until the end of time.

It is what men and women like Robert Malcolm Davenport guard against.

As was the case in Vietnam and in most wars the clear and present danger is always on the battlefield when bullets are flying and rarely in the events that led up to skirmishes or war.

The men and women who serve this country are who we rely on in split second situations or prolonged reposes to provocation to keep the flickering candle of democracy — clearly an aberration in the march of time — burning.

Take a moment — even if it is only today on the 11th hour of the 11th day if the 11th month of the year — to reflect and give thanks for those among us who have served and those who never made it back to enjoy what for many is just a paid holiday from work or a day off from school.

The Robert Malcolm Davenports deserve our undying gratitude for the sacrifices they have made.


 This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at