We feature and say “Au Revoir” and “Arrivederci, a Presto” to our ACB Board Member, Gordon B. “Skip” Davis, Jr., who is retiring to Vicenza, Italy, halfway between Venice and Verona, after a long career in the U.S. Military and most recently at NATO.
June 2018 – Skip’s military retirement ceremony in Vicenza, before joining NATO. Here with his family and with Ambassador Phil Reeker, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Europe / Eurasia; Skip with his wife Rita in Sicily in August 2019.
Skip, we are speaking with you in Vicenza, Italy, halfway between Venice and Verona – because you just retired from NATO here in Belgium in September. After a lifetime of global assignments, including a 37-year career in the U.S. Military (retired as Major General) this must seem like a re-birth - to now be living full-time in Italy?
Yes, it does!!! My wife, Rita, is Italian. We built our home here in 2007 and have a home in Sicily, so it’s all very familiar. We are now close to our daughter in Wiesbaden, Germany, where she is a Captain in the U.S. Army. Our other daughter is based in Washington DC. She performs with a contemporary dance company and is a linguist-interpreter for the U.S. government - so we have a foot in both countries. Growing up in Fort Meyers, Fla., near the Everglades inspired my love of water, seafood and sun.
Your NATO and U.S. Military career gave you a “birds-eye view” of the world – with assignments in Europe (Germany, Italy, France, Belgium, United Kingdom, Bosnia, Africa (Mozambique, Rwanda, Zaire - before it became DROC, Liberia, Congo) the Middle East (Iraq, Afghanistan) – what are your thoughts as you look back at how your career evolved?
I feel blessed to have joined a profession that develops leaders of character who serve others, that continuously challenges its members to achieve their full potential (mentally, physically, spiritually), that remains among the most respected professions in America, and that provides incredible opportunities for Soldiers and their families to travel and experience other cultures. The Military requires an acceptance of risk and incredible sacrifice and commitment from its members and their families, and doesn’t remunerate its members significantly in monetary terms. But it does provide education, experience, fulfillment, fellowship and satisfaction that few other careers can match. During my 37 years in the military, I served 26 years abroad, spent 15 years away from family, was deployed five+ years in combat, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, and was given the opportunity to study full-time in the pursuit of three different graduate degrees – so there is a lot to be grateful for.
Talking of NATO, President Biden’s nominee for U.S. Ambassador to Belgium is a South Florida real estate developer, Michael Adler, who praises NATO. His nominee for U.S. Ambassador to NATO is Julie Smith, senior advisor to Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. This would seem an ideal time to introduce members to the new Ambassadors at our ACB 100th Anniversary Gala in January 2022?
Yes, that is something to look forward to. Given the history of ACB’s founding in the aftermath of World War I, and America’s role in the recovery and reconstruction of Belgium, I think both Ambassadors would present an inspiring perspective. We have a lot to celebrate and commemorate. We hope to be there!
What should we remember about NATO in a few words…
- The U.S. is NATO’s largest Ally in terms of population, defense capabilities and defense spending, and is critical for European defense and security.
- For the U.S., being part of NATO ensures not only stability in Europe, which is critical for our trade and prosperity, but also links the U.S. with 29 other democracies who share common values and priorities of defense, responsiveness against common threats from state actors and terrorist groups, to challenges from cyber attacks, hybrid activities, disinformation campaigns, illicit trafficking, unanticipated strategic shocks like pandemics, and climate change.
- Finally, being part of NATO provides the U.S. a great return on our investment in terms of troops and capabilities in Europe to other parts of the world where Allies support our policies, operations, and access, thus multiplying or amplifying our reach and impact.
You are an eternal optimist and a strategic planner. What are your main coping skills relating to Covid? Also, Italy introduced just this week a “No Green Health Pass, No Paycheck” rule for all Public and Private Sectors?
Vaccinations are free and easy to access here in Italy and 80% of the population over age 12 is vaccinated. In terms of coping skills, I follow the advice and example of the stoics - focus on what one can control (attitude, actions, reactions, priorities), accept what one cannot control - and being as creative as possible to keep life as low stress and interesting for myself and my family.
What are three things that you love and will miss about Brussels and Belgium?
We loved and will miss the wide variety of great restaurants, the arts and cultural events, antique shops and markets. And we loved and will miss the cosmopolitan character of Brussels.
We wish Skip well in his retirement and thank him for his dedication as an ACB Board Member these past 3 years.
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