Army Pfc. Nathan Tyler Davis was a "trusted and valued teammate" who volunteered for some of his unit's hardest assignments when he was in Afghanistan, a brigadier general said Friday during his memorial service in Yucaipa.
Davis volunteered to serve in the Army, and he volunteered for infantry, "the point of the spear" in most Army combat operations, and he qualified for Airborne status on his own initiative, the general said.
Davis, 20, of Yucaipa died in Tore Obeh, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb during combat operations, Pastor Don Hinkle told hundreds inside Yucaipa Christian Church.
Most of the pews were full, and many more people waited outside to pay tribute to the procession later when his remains were taken by hearse to Sunnyslope Cemetery in Beaumont.
Davis' forebears came to the Yucaipa area 90 years ago, Hinkle said. Davis was born Jan. 27, 1992, in Fontana, and from a very young age it was clear young Tyler "craved action," Hinkle said.
At school it was evident Tyler was very interested in what was going on outside the classroom, Hinkle said. Tyler played basketball, soccer and he especially liked watching WWF wrestling on cable.
Young Tyler Davis loved action but he kept a clear head and seemed calm under pressure, Hinkle said.
"His dad called him his surfer child, laid back, but always waiting for the next big wave," Hinkle said.
When Tyler decided he wanted to go in the Army, he knew he wanted infantry and airborne, so he trained by running hills in the Yucaipa area with a backpack loaded with rocks and wrapped in towels, Hinkle said.
He entered the Army just after his eighteenth birthday and he earned his maroon Airborne beret before his nineteenth birthday, Hinkle said.
When he deployed he volunteered as RTO, radio telephone operator, a task that meant he carried more than the average rifleman as he and his unit ran up and down hills in Afghanistan, Brigadier General Brian McKiernan said.
Davis then volunteered to be gunner for his unit, meaning he carried more weight in weaponry and ammunition, McKiernan said.
"He embodied the virtue of selflessness," McKiernan said. "He found a home away from home in the Army."
Representatives of a Kansas-based extremist church had announced they would protest and "preach" their message near Yucaipa Christian Church, but they did not make a public appearance anywhere near the memorial service for Davis.
members had said they would be near the church at 10:15 a.m., and hundreds of Yucaipa residents and other supporters came to shield Davis' family from the Westboro members if they showed.
Motorcycle clubs including Vietnam Veterans Legacy Vets, Diablos, Vagos, Geezers and others took up most of the parking directly in front of the church in a show of solidarity with Davis' family and counter-protesters.
Numerous motorcycle officers with the San Bernardino County sheriff's department were assigned to the funeral procession, as well as more deputies on foot outside the church. Cal Fire and other fire agencies also had a presence at the church, and two ladder truck crews raised a large American flag over Yucaipa Boulevard for Davis' procession after his service.
Davis was assigned to the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
He was laid to rest Friday afternoon at Sunnyslope Cemetery south of Interstate 10 in Beaumont.