Elizabeth Davis became a widow before she was 30 when her husband, Marine 1st Lt. Matthew Davis, was killed in November 2014.
He wasn’t killed in combat. He was killed by a fellow Marine who had too much to drink and got behind the wheel of his pickup truck, leading military police on a wild chase before slamming into Davis' vehicle at Camp Pendleton, California.
“My husband’s best friend happened to be serving with him and volunteered to do my notification,” Davis told Marines on Friday at Henderson Hall, Virginia. “I know that haunts him every single day: having to knock on my door that morning and tell me that my husband was killed while standing duty; that my husband, who had deployed repeatedly, who had trained dangerously and always came home safely, was killed by one just like you, in uniform.”
Davis spoke at a town hall held by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, who showed a picture of her husband for all to see.
“It so important to me that you guys realize that this is not just a picture,” she said. “This isn’t just a story when you leave here. This Marine has two children. He has a little boy who will never have his dad teach him how to ride a bike because of this selfish act. He has a little girl who will never have her dad walk her down the aisle. He left behind hundreds of Marines who love him, who bled with him, who served with him.”
Davis urged the Marines in attendance Friday to take her husband’s story to heart so that their loved ones don’t have to endure losing them before their time.
“This is so easily preventable,” she said. “If you don’t do it for yourself, please do it for everyone around you. Your wives, your children, your parents do not deserve this extremely preventable knock on their door. Your brothers don’t deserve to carry you to an early grave.”
Neller said 1st Lt. Davis’ death prompted him to encourage Marines to talk about how much they drink and what they stand to lose if they get into trouble.
“I don’t know who I felt sorrier for: Ms. Davis or that [drunken driver] Marine,” Neller said Friday. “I’m sure he didn’t get into that truck and intend to go do what he did. That’s what makes alcohol so dangerous, because it works every time. That’s why we like it: It does exactly what we want it to do.”
While Neller is not asking Marines to stop drinking, he said he can no longer stand on the sidelines as Marines die or throw away their careers by getting drunk. He cited the story of another Marine, Lance Cpl. Nathan Ortega, who is brain dead after drinking too much at a birthday party at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
“I don’t want any more Lt. Davises or Lance Cpl. Ortegas, but I know in my heart of hearts there will probably be another one here in another couple months,” he said. “So what are you going to do about it? What are we going to do about it?”
The 37th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert B. Neller, will hold a town hall with Marines Feb. 12, 2016, to discuss his planning guidance, expectations for Marines, and the state and future of the Corps.