There are those who work and play among us daily whom we may not recognize as heroes. Two such individuals are Walter and Jason Smith of the Mount Hermon community.
Walter Smith, now of the Smith Angus Farm, graduated from L.S.U. in 1963 and went to flight training in Pensacola to become a U.S. Marine and Naval Aviator.
In 1965 he was in Vietnam flying helicopters in and out of combat zones to deliver and pick up men and supplies. At one point his helicopter was hit by enemy fire and the resulting shrapnel caused injury to one of his eyes. As his co-pilot was inexperienced, Walter decided it was best to continue flying the helicopter himself to make the pick up of the men waiting for him.
He did so and after making sure all were safely delivered, only then did he go to a Navy hospital ship for treatment.
Walter received the Distinguished Flying Cross medal for heroism and the Purple Heart medal for injury in combat and retired as a Marine Colonel in 1993 after serving his country so bravely for many years.
Walter has given many hours of service to his community and parish since then and is recognized as a fine citizen, but few know what a hero he really is.
Jason Smith, son of Walter and Dianne Smith, husband of Rebekah and father of 5, is another hero who walks among us, following in his father’s tradition.
Jason graduated from LSU in 3 and l/2 years and wanted to fulfill his dream of becoming a U.S. Marine.
He joined the Marine Corps and was on a ship in the Middle East, which was the first ship to enter the Black Sea since it had been closed off by the U.S.S.R.
He went to Iraq after 9-11 and it was there that he was called upon to do what made him a hero. Jason was the captain and commander of Company B, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division on April 13th, 2004 leading a rescue mission. The Marines needing rescue were stranded in Fallujah but their exact location was unknown.
By following the smoke from a burning assault vehicle, Jason led his platoon through the city and reached a building housing the stranded Marines. He was able to organize a defense around them and supervise the evacuation of casualties. After contacting the command post for a tank to take out the burned vehicle in which was a dead Marine, air support was called to conduct raids on enemy positions. He supervised the withdrawal from the raid areas and stayed behind, traveling on foot until all the Marines had crossed into non-hostile areas.
Jason was awarded the Silver Star which is the 3rd highest award given for Valor in Combat. Following a separate incident, he was also awarded the Bronze Star, a medal given for heroic achievement in connection with combat operations against the enemy as his battalion attacked to seize the Presidential Palace in support of Iraqi Freedom.
Jason now lives and works with the Smith Angus Farm in Mt Hermon. He is an active member of his church and is President of the Franklinton Soccer Club. He contributes to the community with his service, but never refers to his heroism.
To see the memorabilia of these and other local heroes, visit the military exhibit at the Varnado Store Museum during May and June.