On Enfield’s Hallowed Ground
Soldier Finally Given His Due
Gordon Clough, of Enfield, salutes members of an American Legion honor guard after a dedication service for Sgt. Leo Davio’s new headstone at Lakeview Cemetery in Enfield yesterday. Clough, who knew the World War I veteran from when he rented a room from Clough’s grandmother, led the effort to get a headstone on Davio’s unmarked grave. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Enfield Cemetery Sexton Will Shoemaker brushes loose dirt off Leo Davio’s headstone after setting it in the ground. Davio was denied a government-funded headstone — the American Legion Post 26 in White River Junction purchased it for him. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Stan Garland, commander of the Vermont American Legion, addresses the Post 26 honor guard and others gathered to dedicate the headstone of Sgt. Leo Davio of Enfield who served in the Army Airforce in World War I and lay in an unmarked grave in Enfield’s Lakeview Cemetery since 1966. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Enfield — Sgt. Leo A. Davio fought in France during World War I and was discharged in 1918, two days before Christmas.
He was born in Derby, Vt., in 1891. After the war, he settled in Enfield, spending the next 30 years in a boarding house that has since been converted into a hardware store. Davio liked fishing, and woke at 5 every morning with the sun at his window. He was quiet and reserved, and valued his privacy. And when he passed away in 1966 at 74, he was buried in Lakeview Cemetery without a gravestone, his wartime service unrecognized by the U.S. government.
Forgotten for the next 47 years, Davio’s burial ground was nothing more than a dirt plot — until yesterday morning, when members of American Legion Post 26 crowded into the Enfield cemetery and recognized the veteran’s service to his country with an honor guard procession and an engraved marker.
The effort didn’t come easily, said Gordon Clough, who grew up with his grandmother in Enfield, living in the same house where Davio resided after the war.
More than four years ago, Clough said, he was walking through Lakeview Cemetery and couldn’t find Davio’s grave.
Clough contacted a town official, who directed him to the correct plot, but he was astonished to find that there wasn’t a headstone.
“It was just dirt,” he said. “It was unacceptable.”
Clough said he served in the Navy and believes that all U.S. veterans should be recognized for their dedication to their country.
So he began contacting the Department of Veteran Affairs — with mixed results.
While the department did respond, Clough said, it told him there was nothing it could do. He’s saved the letters.
One, from December 2012, says Clough does not “appear to be an authorized applicant.”
To apply for “a Government-furnished headstone or marker,” the applicant must be “the descendant’s next-of-kin,” the letter reads.
Because Clough was not a surviving spouse, child, parent, brother or sister, grandparent or grandchild, aunt or uncle, niece, nephew, cousin or other lineal descendant, he couldn’t request a gravestone.
Clough said Davio may have been estranged from a son but knew of no other relatives.
“When Davio died in 1966, my grandmother tried contacting his son,” Clough said, “but he wanted nothing to do with it.”
Feeling bogged down in bureaucracy and moving nowhere, Clough turned to Post 26 in White River Junction earlier this month, and his efforts paid off.
“It was a battle,” Clough said. “But I would have brought this all the way to President Obama if I had to. Luckily, they took my story and ran with it.”
Danny Lambert, adjutant of Post 26, said he tried contacting veterans programs in Kentucky and Washington, D.C., a few more times before realizing the attempts were futile.
“They didn’t care about the story,” Lambert said.
So he took matters into his own hands.
Lambert said he conferred with other Legion members, who agreed that Davio, a native Vermonter, should be recognized with a headstone. A supporter in Randolph provided the granite marker at cost — $176.
“Today was all about Leo,” Lambert said, “as it should be.”
Yesterday morning, about a dozen Post 26 members, joined by Stan Garland, Vermont commander for the American Legion, circled a large green tent.
Underneath, next to another decorated grave, was a block of green turf. Sitting on top was the granite gravestone, with the words “Leo A. Davio, Sgt. Army Airforce WWI” etched into the surface.
A wreath of red, white and blue flowers, and two American flags, stood in front of the gravestone.
“When the call of our country was heard, comrade Leo Davio answered,” said Garland. “The red of our country’s flag is made redder by his efforts.”
A chaplain spoke, then three Legion members hoisted rifles on their shoulders, firing off three rounds that echoed behind the trees.
The smoke cleared, and two men lifted the gravestone and removed the block of turf, revealing a hole in the earth. They placed the marker onto Davio’s grave as a light rain fell on the tent.
“I think it’s sad that the bureaucracy of this government did not see fit to take care of this,” Garland said. “But he can rest in peace now.”
Zack Peterson can be reached at 603-727-3211 or firstname.lastname@example.org.