You might have been aware that another group of Kern County Honor Flight veterans took to Washington, D.C., last week with Korea and Vietnam War heroes on board. There was a small Tehachapi contingent on board that flight. One of those has been a staple in local sports over the years, my friend and press box spotter for Tehachapi High School football, Roger Davis.
Roger served the United States Navy as a hospital corpsman with the 1st Marine Air Wing Division in Danang, Vietnam, from 1966-1967. He continued his life of service in the military, the California Youth Authority and the Department of Corrections where he eventually landed in Tehachapi, a community he still calls home today.
Roger and I go way back to my childhood. I went to school with his kids and church with his family, he umpired lots of my baseball games, officiated football and once I got to high school, served as the Warriors’ volunteer athletic trainer for many years. Roger taped countless ankles and was always good for a pregame pep talk on the training table.
After his retirement, he continued to follow the Warriors and while age removed him from the sidelines, he still finds a way to give back by sitting in the press box on Friday nights and serving as my eyes calling out ballcarriers, tacklers and numbers that are often hard to read during the pace of the game. We public address announcers refer to them as “spotters,” but Roger is much more than that; he’s an encyclopedia of Warrior football knowledge and I can’t recall a game yet that he doesn’t know at least one of the officials, or their fathers. He and I have been able to deal with the last few seasons of futility on the field by voicing our frustrations to one another. It’s a bond I share with few people.
I was ecstatic to learn he was selected for this latest Honor Flight. He had been on the waiting list for quite some time, as many Vietnam veterans are. When his wife, Cindy, asked to gather a few letters for one final mail call in D.C., I was happy to write one. I was proud of my friend. Tehachapi Mayor Susan Wiggins also provided a letter. Roger has been a long-time community supporter in a variety of areas; the honor certainly rose to that level.
Back east he was joined by his daughter Nikole Howell, who served as his chaperone and helper on the trip. He got to take part in several memorial visits, including the one he told me he was most looking forward to — and dreading at the same time — the Vietnam Memorial, where the names of 58,000 of his fellow servicemen and women are inscribed, those that like Roger Davis gave, but paid the ultimate price as a result.
As is commonplace in Kern County, his Honor Flight was welcomed back with a capacity crowd at the terminal at Meadows Field. Nothing less is to be expected or accepted in our community. I understand in 1967 he certainly didn’t receive that type of welcome back from his service. I am grateful he had a chance to receive the welcome he and his fellow veterans deserved.
I missed Roger in the press box last week as he went straight from one trip to another, but he’ll be back for our final home game this week, no doubt full of stories from a much-deserved Honor Flight experience. It’s even more rewarding to see someone who has lived their life in service to others have the opportunity to be honored and served for a short time themselves. Even after his busy week he was asking me about the score of the football game. I was happy to report a Warriors victory.
I’m very proud of Kern County Honor Flight and proud of my pal Roger. This community is certainly blessed to have him in our midst and still giving of himself to this day.
Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides in Tehachapi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed are his own.