The Story of An American Solider With Presidential Access Turned Alzheimer’s Disease Patient
On June 15, 2016, my Dad, Hammond Davis, received a call. It was the sort of offer he couldn’t refuse, for an assignment to a place he had never been before. And, unlike his many other military assignments, he would not be returning. His work on Earth was done.
He had gone home to be with his Lord Jesus. From being an American Soldier, aka. Army Attaché complete with Presidential access to a man suffering from the nasty attack of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Hammond Benson Davis, Army Attaché, Gainesville, GA’s Early LIfe | American Soldier Turned Alzheimer’s Patient
Dad was born on October 11, 1922, in Hall County, Ga. to the late Ernest Davis and Ida Mae Tyner Presley. He grew up during the Great Depression. His mother divorced when he was very young, in a time when divorce was socially unacceptable.
During his early adolescence, she married for a second time, to Golden Presley – a man who would become a stepdad, and who we would, in later years, fondly call “Pop Presley.” Times were tough, and work was almost non-existent in Georgia for many during the mid-1930s.
Dad would tell us of stories of the hard times when his stepfather found work in the steelyards of Pennsylvania. When it was time to return to the South, there was only enough money to send him and his mother back by train. Men often “hoboed” back by sneaking on the railcars carrying industrial cargo. As I said, times were tough. Resources were scarce. Nothing was ever wasted. Ever.
From these experiences, I believe Dad would carry this mindset throughout his life. He went on to live with his grandmother and graduated from Lyman Hall High School in Gainesville, GA.
His First Job & His First Army Trip to Germany | American Soldier Turned Alzheimer’s Patient
After graduating, he worked for Westinghouse and Atomic Energy, then decided to join the Army. He served a solo tour in Germany in the late 1950s. I remember being fascinated by this handsome man who was our part-time Dad.
He had a full head of curly black hair that I admired and wanted! He told me that if I drank buttermilk, my hair would turn black and curly. Because he was my idol and I wanted my locks to look just like his, I choked down many glasses of buttermilk. It never happened.
While in Germany, Dad started to study communications and eventually joined an elite group of men being formed in the Department of Defense, who would eventually work out of the American Embassy in numerous foreign countries. From what little information we have, he worked decoding morse code messages for the President of the United States.
First Assignment & First Trip to Africa | American Soldier Turned Alzheimer’s Patient
He received his first assignment in Africa in 1962. We moved from North Georgia to Asmara, Ethiopia, where we enjoyed “13 months of sunshine”, meeting England’s Queen Elizabeth, and vacationing at Massawa on the Red Sea. Riding camels, jumping off Dad’s shoulders at least a hundred times, and collecting large conch shells were our favorite things to do there.
I distinctly remember when my friend Alice and I spotted an unusually beautiful shell specimen at the same time. It was quite the debate as to who it belonged to. When we noticed “something” crawling out of it, we took it to my Dad, who proceeded to settle the argument. When that big, ugly crab started trying to pinch us, we decided that neither of us wanted it!
Those days the weather extremes were as vastly different as our activities. It was scorching during the day and VERY cold at night. That was the first place I remember seeing salt harvested by the seaside. I started getting a geography lesson that I wouldn’t soon forget.
When we weren’t at the Red Sea, you might find us playing shuffleboard or with the giant chameleons that the local kids would parade around the fence at a resort called Karon, or laying on Dad’s scratchy Army blanket by the pool at Kagnew Station, the military base in Asmara.
I’ll never forget the afternoons that we would be in the car on base. Promptly at 5:00 p.m., “Taps” started playing all over the base, all cars stopped. The soldiers got out of their vehicles and stood at attention as the flag was lowered for the night. Whenever I hear that song, my mind goes back to those days. It was a time when patriotism was instilled in my life.
Love of Vintage Antique Cars | American Soldier Turned Alzheimer’s Patient
Dad’s love of cars started about this time. He bought two old Fiats and an Alfa Romeo that had an aluminum body and had been handmade for Mussolini. He would tinker with them, and once they were in working order, he would drive us around the neighborhood while we sang at the top of our lungs. That was our after-dinner and before-bedtime treat. I remember those trips fondly.
When our days in Africa came to an end, he made arrangements to have his car collection shipped, and we moved back to the U.S. for Dad to continue his training.
The Visit From The FBI | American Soldier Turned Alzheimer’s Patient
Some time in between these worldwide assignments, my cousin Ricky tells of the F.B.I. Visiting Dad’s mother, my grandmother, at her house in Georgia. According to his account, they drove up in a big black car, got out dressed head-to-toe in dark suits and sunglasses, and proceeded to “inspect” things. It was all part of the background check required to be assigned to special duty.
First Trip To The Pentagon In Washington, D.C. | American Soldier Turned Alzheimer’s Patient
At the beginning of June 1967, Dad made a trip to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. He was to receive orders for his first official Diplomatic Department of Defense assignment. He was about to become part of an elite group of men who had 24/7 communication with the President.
Excited, he phoned mother and informed her we would be moving to Beirut, Lebanon. The very next day, the 6-Day War broke out. Needless to say, mother was relieved when we got reassigned to Ankara, Turkey.
Living In Asia Minor, Istanbul, Turkey Among Biblical History | American Soldier Turned Alzheimer’s Patient
We lived in the capital city for three years and traveled all over Asia Minor, discovering the vast Biblical and historical treasures. We visited Istanbul, The Blue Mosque, and the Dolmabahçe Palace. Many of my Girl Scout camping experiences were on the Aegean Sea, in Izmir, Ephesus, and Pergamum, and many of the most beautiful archeological sites in Turkey. We visited the Virgin Mary’s house and watched the Whirling Dervishes spin themselves into a trance by twirling round and round.
Living in Mexico City, Mexico & Visiting Xochimilco, The Venice of Mexico | American Soldier Turned Alzheimer’s Patient
Mexico City was our next assignment, where we spent three years in one of the largest, most populated cities in the world. We took weekend trips and picnicked by tailgating out of Dad’s beloved VW station wagon. Sunday afternoons were magical when spent with friends on the canals and boats in Xochimilco – best described as the “Venice of Mexico.”
Vacationing In Alcapulco Was Not Dangerous Then | American Soldier Turned Alzheimer’s Patient
Week-long trips to our friend’s ranch near Acapulco were lots of fun. I remember the Las Brisas Hotel because everything was pink from the jeeps to the pool edge. The cliff divers were astounding too. I couldn’t imagine jumping off the edge of a cliff the way those guys do.
Photos of Las Brisas Hotel in Acapulco, Mexico
Living in Bangkok Thailand | American Soldier Turned Alzheimer’s Patient
From Mexico, we moved to Bangkok, Thailand. This was our first experience in Asia. Adjusting to the heat and humidity proved to be the most challenging part for our family.
The rainy/monsoon season began shortly after we arrived. Some days I would see Dad headed out the door to catch his ride dressed in a suit, with his pants legs rolled up, carrying his shoes, socks, and briefcase in his hands. A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. Even if it’s hiring a gardener with a BIG stick to hit the cobras hiding in the bushes and to shop at the floating market instead of the commissary.
Retiring After Living In Bangkok, Mexico, Germany, Miami, Africa, Turkey & Traveling The World | American Soldier Turned Alzheimer’s Disease Patient
Retirement was on the horizon after the Bangkok assignment. Looking back, he had had a fantastic career: World War II veteran, recipient of numerous Department of War Awards, The Ronald Reagan National Republican Committee award, and finally – officially retired from the U.S. Army Defense Attache.
Presented With The Ronald Regan Presidential Award | American Soldier Turned Alzheimer’s Disease Patient
Living In Fort Devins, Massetussets | American Soldier Turned Alzheimer’s Patient
After a short stint in Fort Devins, MA, to wrap up the legalities, Dad came home to Georgia, where he and mother had already bought and set up their retirement home. And, where Hammond added 39 (not a typo) more cars to his “collection.”
My Father’s Fascination With Antique Cars | American Soldier Turned Alzheimer’s Patient
One afternoon, while at my work desk, my sister called to tell me that she saw Dad crossing the railroad tracks near her office- ON A BICYCLE! We figured out he had put the bike in the trunk of a car that he wanted to move and rode the bike back home, so no one was the wiser. What he hadn’t counted on was her seeing him in action!
Days Before Microwave Ovens & My Dad’s Love of Eating From “Prison Plates”
Those were the days before microwave ovens. I would sometimes go to their house and eat lunch with him. Mother was a great cook, so we would feast on leftovers heated up in what we referred to as “prison plates” – more commonly known as tin pie pans.
Love of Grandkids and Great Grandkids | American Soldier Turned Alzheimer’s Patient
Dad helped with my daughter, Christi – patiently playing with her for hours. He spent hours picking her up from preschool. Even the day she got caught pinching kids and needed to be picked up on emergency. For Christmas, he bought her a yellow eighteen-wheeler looking powered truck. When the battery ran out halfway around the block, he would push her. He always remained Army fit.
He loved his grandkids and great-grandkids. It was only after he had Alzheimer’s that he would look at us and say, “who’s kids are those?” and “who are you anyway?”
Sweetest Alzheimer’s Patient Ever | American Soldier Turned Alzheimer’s Disease Patient
However, we were fortunate that he was the sweetest Alzheimer’s patient that one would ask for. Yet, he would not have chosen to live a life, not knowing. He wanted a life of intelligence, dignity, grace, and respect for himself, his country, and those around him.
Watch this video to see how we celebrated his life with a full military funeral
Realization of What My Dad Accomplished In The Army | American Soldier Turned Alzheimer’s Patient
After his death, I was going through some of his papers and realized I never knew how much he had to go through to qualify for the awards and assignments granted to him. I found myself asking, “How can a man who was offered so little in life turn out to be such a good father and an all-around great man?” Even though he never had a real father figure in his life, he was a wonderful father to many. I believe he looked to his Heavenly Father as an example.
Dallas ABC News Channel 8 Mentioned My Dad In This Video | My Daughter Christi Tasker Produced Dallas Showhouse In Southlake, Texas To Raise Money For Alzheimer’s Association of North Texas
Please Be Aware of Families & Patients who have Alzheimer’s Disease
Today, I ask that each of you reading take a moment to help us raise awareness for Alzheimer’s patients and their families worldwide. Alzheimer’s disease is completely debilitating for not only the patients but their families and caretakers.
Alzheimer’s disease kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined, yet it’s victims suffer in silence, their struggles often swept under the carpet. My Dad deserved, as moms and dads everywhere do, the right to retain their intelligence, their wit, and their precious memories for all of their days on Earth until they receive that final assignment and are granted perfect peace as they look down on us from Heaven. We can, and will, find a way to eliminate Alzheimer’s.
Suffering From Alzheimer’s Disease? How You Can Help Or Get Help
If you or a family member have Alzheimer’s Disease, please reach out to your local Alzheimer’s charity. They vary per region, country, and continent. Click here for major Alzheimer’s charity and research organizations in the:
What Can You Do To Help A Local Family With An Alzheimer’s Patient?
If your family would like to get involved with helping a local family to assist with an Alzheimer’s patient, you can do several things:
- If you love to work retail and interact with the public, volunteer in a local charity shop.
- Help at an Alzheimer’s fundraiser. For instance, Christi partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association of North Central Texas, which had their volunteers manage the Dallas Designers Showhouse. You can click here to find your local chapter and sign up to volunteer.
- Prepare meals. Often the caretakers of patients do not have time to eat themselves much less prepare food.
- Sit with the patient while the caretaker works a job or relaxes for a bit.
- Got other ideas for helping a family or patient? Please comment below, and I’ll gladly add your thoughts to this post.
#LIFEISATRIP | Thanks For Reading & How To Receive Our Fun Travel Blog Posts
Thank you all for reading. Please be sure to subscribe to P.S. This Rocks to read our interesting blog posts of travels, vacation advice & more. I am sorry this post is much more morbid, yet it’s LIFE, and as Christi always says #LIFEISATRIP and it’s like a box of chocolates…we never know what we’re going to get. All we can do is make the best of it.