This episode of StoryCorps originally aired in 2018.
At 20 years old, Pfc. Roman Coley Davis was stationed in Afghanistan when the loneliness of war began to seep in. At StoryCorps 12 years later, Davis tells a friend how a surprise package from his Georgia hometown brought him immense comfort.
Audio produced for Weekend Edition Saturday by Aisha Turner.
StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.
This week, StoryCorps is releasing a new technology that makes it possible, for the first time, to record interviews remotely. Go to StoryCorpsConnect.org to try it out.
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NOEL KING, HOST:
Time now for StoryCorps. Private First Class Roman Coley Davis was born in Georgia. He joined the military after high school. And when he was 20, Roman was deployed to one of the most remote U.S. outposts in Afghanistan. And there, he found something familiar.
ROMAN COLEY DAVIS: I served in the United States Army as a human intelligence collector in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan. We were essentially in a black zone. If you walk outside of the wire, there's almost a 100% chance that someone's dying or coming back wounded - if you come back.
We were tracking Osama bin Laden and people like that - high-valued targets - for almost year and a half, and we were involuntarily extended. I remember, during that time, at one point being incredibly homesick and just lost, if you will, in the middle of a war. And one day, a Blackhawk helicopter flies into the valley, and they kick off bright yellow U.S. mailbags. And a sergeant called my name - Peaches. I was the only one from south Georgia, so my radio call sign was Peaches. And they said, Peaches, come up here - you got some mail. And I wasn't expecting mail. And it was this box from home.
And I cut it open. And there was this big, huge thing wrapped in aluminum foil. And so I take off this layer of aluminum foil, and then there's more aluminum foil and, like, 30 layers of foil and plastic wrap and this, that and the other. And my meemaw (ph) had baked this homemade sour cream pound cake. And I've seen my meemaw bake this for people whose mothers have died. It's something that she takes to those who grieve. And then here I am, and I'm in a foreign country in a hostile environment. And that same pound cake is now sitting in front of me. And my 12-man team is there.
And I pulled out a KA-BAR combat knife. And I hack into this thing, and I cut it into, like, 12 massive chunks. And I ate mine first. And I cried. And everyone got a chunk. And I think that if we had dined in her kitchen the moment that it cooled and she took the towels off of it, it could not have been as fresh as it was there on that mountainside.
And for that one moment, I felt loved even though I was lonely. The pound cake was clean even though I was so dirty. It was cold, and that pound cake warmed me. It was just like Meemaw was there.
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KING: That was Roman Coley Davis talking to his friend Dan Marek at StoryCorps. When he got back from Afghanistan, Roman used the GI Bill to go to culinary school, and now he makes his own pound cake. His full interview will be archived in the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.