A young buck sergeant with entrenching tool in hand...
Dr. Daw attended Central High in Columbia where his father, Command Sergeant Major (RET) Ted Daw, had been selected, after completion of his first tour of combat duty in Vietnam (awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action and the Combat Infantryman Badge), to be an instructor at the prestigious Columbia Military Academy where he also became the rifle team coach. As one of the Army's best - a Drill Instructor - Dr. Daw's father balanced his duties as a soldier who trained men in the art of war and, by extension, the extreme discipline required for survival in combat with that of a devoted husband and father. As a young buck sergeant possessing leadership traits and skills gleaned from his experience with the North Carolina National Guard, his initial assignment to Fort Carson, CO, found him faced with a momentous decision. SGT Daw's warrior skills and leadership were quickly recognized by the command structure of Fort Carson and lead to his selection for astronaut training, as President Kennedy's recognition of the national security implications of recent Russian advancements in rocket booster technology and his desire to beat the Russians to the moon resulted in a military-wide screening for astronaut candidates. Dr. Daw's father shrugged off the accolades and chose a different military career path; the warrior skills that earned him selection for the arduous astronaut program would also serve him well in his quest to become a Drill Instructor.
SGT Daw's character and fortitude were forged during his demanding, even harsh, childhood where he and his four brothers shouldered the responsibility of farming a large amount of acreage. Tragically losing his mother as a very young child, he took every opportunity to help his family, cooking for his father and brothers and working the farm in any capacity necessary. Further, he acquired skills reflective of rugged, self-reliant individuals that would enable him to survive in any situation. Always striving to better himself, he developed agricultural skills from his largely tobacco farm years that would later translate into incredible gardens, apiaries and microbreweries, among other enterprises. Upon joining the NC National Guard, he observed how discipline, high standards and leadership could positively influence young men who, in many cases, lacked a male role model and were unfocused or poorly educated in such a manner that they became cohesive, disciplined and motivated soldiers capable of solving any problem presented them. Dr. Daw's father felt his calling was in developing young men as soldiers, providing much more impact for the military. Dr. Daw recalls his discovery of a parachute in his father's closet and his excitement when his mother explained its presence was due to his father's selection for the program. His disappointment when his parents informed him of his father's assignment, instead, to the 25th Infantry Division was tempered with the fact the family would be moving to Hawaii.
SGT Daw's intense jungle warfare training for three years, primarily on the big island of Hawaii, lead to his selection for combat duty in Vietnam, training the South Vietnamese soldiers and inserting himself into battle against the communist forces of China and North Vietnam. His special operations skills did not go without notice by the Army; he eventually became Commandant of the NCO Academy at the Army's premier jungle operations training center, Fort Sherman, Panama. In fact, his responsibilities there precluded his attending his son's graduation and commissioning at UTC. Yet another sacrifice by this warrior.
Dr. Daw's remarkable mother, Joyce, was the anchor for a family that sometimes found her as the sole parent; she did so without complaint. From Fort Carson, CO, to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, to the US Army Armor Training Center, Fort Knox, KY, Dr. Daw's mother provided an environment conducive for the academic and spiritual growth of her children. Upon the closure of Mary Lester Fabrics, which she opened in the newly built Northgate Mall (a new market for the national fabric chain built expressly for her by the corporation when she informed them in Columbia the family was moving to Chattanooga in order for her son to attend UTC), Dr. Daw's mother would challenge a desire she had held for years - she would pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing at UTC. Despite the requirements of, again, being a single parent (due to Dr. Daw's father's assignment to Fort McClellan, AL, and ensuring every opportunity for her son's success by buying a home in Hixson), Dr. Daw's mother would attend UTC while her daughters, Denise and Dawn, emulating their mother, achieved academic excellence in their respective schools. (Dr. Daw's father's assignment to Fort McClellan was yet another reflection of his stature within the Army - he was selected to be one of the first male Drill Instructors at the Women's Army Corps Training Center, as the WAC was about to be integrated with their male counterparts. Unprecedented challenges were expected by the Department of Defense, and Army leadership trusted SFC Daw (soon to be Master Sergeant Daw) to lead other DI's in the transition of women into the male ranks. The Women's Army Corps lost branch status in 1979. MSG Daw's battalion commander, LTC Clark, recognized the leadership attributes of MSG Daw; she promoted him to battalion First Sergeant. LTC Clark went on to become a Brigadier General in Panama and commanded a US Army unit during Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama.) After reviewing homework and supper, she would hit the books. Dr. Daw's sisters even today marvel at those long hours developing interminable care plans, always striving for excellence. Her perseverance was rewarded; she earned her BSN from, arguably, one of the most demanding programs in the country. Again, as a military wife, each assignment would provide opportunities that would find his mother in head nurse positions at Veteran Administration hospitals in Jackson, MS, and Columbia, SC. Upon CSM Daw's retirement and return to Chattanooga (where Dr. Daw's father would continue mentoring young men and women with several years as the Ooltewah High School rifle team coach and as a member of a remarkable JROTC cadre), she assumed a number of positions with Erlanger Hospital, including head nurse at the main campus. A number of Dr. Daw's patients still share anecdotal stories with him and his staff of her unwavering commitment to her patients and their families.
Despite her ascension to Heaven in 1999, only weeks before the birth of Dr. Daw's second son, Dylan, her legacy remains and is evidenced in her two extraordinary daughters who have also earned BSN degrees. Dawn earned her Master's degree and is currently a nurse practitioner in pediatrics and liaison for young nurse practitioners in training. Big sister Denise, upon receiving her BSN, joined the Erlanger staff where she subsequently met an engaging and talented young pediatric resident. Upon marrying Dr. Dennis Estep, she managed his burgeoning pediatric practice before becoming a full time mom for three beautiful and gifted daughters, Kaitlyn, Katherine and Morgan. Dawn brought into the family a young, energetic nurse (with a great arm - Dr. Daw remembers his glove hand burning after playing catch with this excellent athlete; he also burned Dr. Daw on the racquetball court...) who would earn his Master's, also. As a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, Johnny Barnes performs duties in the demanding and challenging arena of the Emergency Room. Further, he provides instruction and sets a high bar for young CRNA candidates. Dawn and Johnny have two outstanding sons, Kyle and Nathan.
Dr. Daw's father's repeated sacrifices required by his military service and consequential absences from his family were explained, in somewhat nebulous terms, to his young son as "duty, honor, country". Some years later, upon reading General Douglas MacArthur's farewell address to West Point and saw, again, those words - duty, honor, country - Dr. Daw felt military service would be in his future. Toward that end, he competed for and was awarded an Army four year ROTC scholarship. Upon consultation with his father, Dr. Daw chose UTC for his academic and military pursuits. Although a relatively small program, UTC had one of the highest percentage of Airborne Ranger graduates in the nation. Further, the instructors were part of an active duty cadre selected by the Army and included several combat veterans, including Green Berets. The academics offered by UTC provided an excellent opportunity for admission to UT Center for the Health Sciences as a postgraduate.