Jeremy Smith, Marine from Arlington, dies in Afghanistan

04/08/2011 11:20 PM

10/09/2011 11:17 AM

Editor's note: The report was originally published in the Star-Telegram on April 6, 2011.

A Marine from Arlington on his fourth combat tour since enlisting eight years ago died Wednesday in Afghanistan, the third serviceman with Fort Worth-area ties to die there in the last week.

Staff Sgt. Jeremy Smith, 26, a Martin High School graduate, died during combat operations in the strategic southern province of Helmand, according to the Defense Department.

His death is under investigation, a phrase that the military uses for combat deaths that may not have been caused by enemy fire. A spokesman for Marine Forces Reserve referred questions to officials in Afghanistan, but a military spokesman there could not respond with more information by deadline.

Sgt. Smith, an experienced and decorated combat leader, was serving with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marines, a reserve infantry unit based in Houston. The so-called Lone Star Battalion and about 800 Marines and Navy corpsmen deployed to Afghanistan about a month ago for a seven-month tour.

His father, Jerry Smith, met his son's body at Dover Air Force Base, Del., on Friday with other relatives.

"The Bible says that we are to run the race that is set before us," he said in a statement. "Jeremy did that, even though it was a difficult race. He only had to do two tours, but this is his fourth. As a leader with experience, he felt that he needed to go back to ensure that his guys made it home safely."

Funeral plans for Sgt. Smith are pending. but his father said he will be buried at Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, probably late next week.

Despite the fact Sgt. Smith graduated from Martin eight years ago, guidance counselor Susan Kingen remembered him well.

"He was special," she said.

In high school, she unsuccessfully tried to persuade him to go to college as an ROTC cadet. The U.S. had just invaded Iraq, and patriotism ran high among some students, including Sgt. Smith, she said.

"He wanted to join the Marines, and he was driven to do it," Kingen said.

After several years in the Marine Corps, including three tours in Iraq, he dropped by Martin to see Kingen. That was the kind of thoughtful young man he was, she said.

"It was very sweet of him," she said.

A couple of days ago, Sgt. Smith's father called to tell her of his death.

"Shocked," she said. "I thought he was out. I didn't know he was in the reserves."

Among Sgt. Smith's awards were the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with one gold service star in lieu of a second award, the Combat Action ribbon, the Navy Unit Commendation and the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal. He will also receive the Purple Heart posthumously.

In all of 2010, two young men from the Fort Worth area were killed in combat operations overseas. But just since March 29, three families in the area have sustained losses.

Army Staff Sgt. Bryan Burgess, 29, of Cleburne was killed in Afghanistan on March 29. Army 1st Lt. Robert Welch III, 26, a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington, was killed Sunday in Afghanistan.

Chris Vaughn, 817-390-7547

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