A Hut to Honor a Son

Opal Davis with the Adopt-a-Hut plaque honoring her son, Chief Warrant Officer William Wesley Davis.
Chief Warrant Officer William Wesley Davis was killed in Cambodia on May 2, 1970, during the Vietnam War. Fifty-one years later, his mother Opal “adopted” a Hut in the CSS Vet’s Camp in his memory. “This is all about Wesley, it’s not about me,” Opal, 91, said after a plaque honoring Wesley was attached to a Hut, where a veteran named Cedar Baer had moved in just a week before. “I think he’d be proud. He’s helping a fellow service man.”

Opal wanted to do something to memorialize her oldest son. Her other children (another son and two daughters) gave her grandchildren, but “my oldest son didn’t live long enough,” she says, “he was only 21. He was not able to leave me something I could physically look at it or see or know about. He was so young. So I wanted to do something for him.”


Chief Warrant Officer William Wesley Davis

Wes and his siblings grew up on a farm in Brookings, Oregon. They all enjoyed swimming, hiking, and floating the Chetco River in a rubber raft and camping along the way. It was an ideal place to grow up in the 1950s and early ’60s. “And it was an ideal time,” Opal says, “things weren’t so confusing. Now the world is a mess.”

Wes was an honor student at Brookings-Harbor High School, from which he graduated in 1966. He didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life, Opal says, but he went to Oregon State University to see if he could figure that out. After a year there, he still wasn’t sure, so he went to see a counselor, who suggested he consider military service.   “He wanted to fly, and we didn’t have the resources to buy flying lessons,” Opal says, so he joined the Army with a real sense of dedication and worked hard to learn to fly Cobra helicopters. Opal had hoped he would choose to fly the big helicopters that look like grasshoppers she had seen used by logging companies around Brookings.

“He said, ‘No, Mom, they don’t do much with them,’” Opal says. “He wanted speed. He really, really loved flying, so he chose the Cobra, which at that time was very fast.”

He began his service in May 1968 and was sent to Vietnam 14 months later. He participated in more than 25 aerial missions over hostile territory in support of counterinsurgency operations. He was killed on a reconnaissance mission near the Cambodian border in which he demonstrated “heroism . . . by voluntary action above and beyond the call of duty . . . to save the lives of his fellow crew members,” according to the text accompanying the order awarding him the Distinguished Flying Cross. He also was awarded a Bronze Star, Air Medal, and a Purple Heart, and he was posthumously promoted to Chief Warrant Officer.


Opal has always been dedicated to supporting organizations that work for positive changes in the world. But recently she has felt overwhelmed by the vast number of donation appeals that fill her mailbox. She asked her daughter Lenore to do some research and pick one organization  for her donation in Wes’s name. Her criteria were that it be local, have an immediate impact, and help veterans. Lenore’s research determined that Community Supported Shelters met all those requirements and adopting a Hut for a veteran would be the most fitting tangible way to honor Wes’s memory.

Before moving into the Hut that now bears Wes’s plaque, Cedar, 61, had spent 11 weeks living in a tent in the Cummins Creek Wilderness of the Siuslaw National Forest. He had run out of savings and could no longer pay the rent at the home in the Santa Clara area where he had lived for nine years. 

A Eugene native who served almost four years in the Air Force in the late ’80s, he had filled out the paperwork at CSS the day he became homeless and then headed for the woods. Because he had no cell reception at his camp, he had to drive into Florence twice a week to check for messages and try to keep in touch with CSS. He came to Eugene for an interview and then returned to the woods. When he was invited back for a second interview a few weeks later, he had been kicked out of the National Forest for overstaying its 14-day camping limit. Fortunately after that interview, he was offered a Hut in the Vets Camp.

He was glad to meet Opal and Lenore when the plaque honoring Wes was placed on the Hut. “I see it as one of many synchronicities that seem to be happening here,” says Cedar, who studies and practices Eastern spirituality, “that means this is a significant place for me. 

“It’s a gift. It’s a teaching,” he says. “These people are excellent.” In the short time he has been in the Vets Camp, things were “just steam rolling along” toward getting him signed up with a housing program for veterans. 


Cedar says Opal’s donation goes directly to serving the community. “It’s very tangible,” he says. “I think she chose well if she wants to help people.” And he feels a connection to the young man whose name adorns his Hut. “His plaque is on my Hut, so I want to know something about him.”

That is Opal’s hope: that the Hut will serve as a place for Cedar to help stabilize his life and after he moves on, others will move in and take notice of her son. “As people move in and out it will be helping them,” she says, and they can reach over and touch the plaque and “say ‘Hi, buddy,’ if they want to.”

“You have holes in your heart that never, ever close,” she says. “I just feel like I’m doing something for Wesley. The world is so terrible. I can’t do anything to fix the world.” But with Wes’s Hut, she says, “I’m doing something and there’s a reason why I am doing it. That’s what it all boiled down to, this is what I can say Wesley did.”

For information about adopting a CSS Hut, click here.