- NATO Kosovo Force
- Operation Allies Refuge
- Operation Enduring Freedom
- Operation Freedom’s Sentinel
- Operation Inherent Resolve
- Operation Iraqi Freedom
- Operation New Dawn
- Operation Octave Shield
- Operation Odyssey Lightning
- Operation Spartan Shield
- Task Force Sinai
- U.S. Africa Command Operations
- U.S. Central Command operations
- The People Behind The Sacrifice
Marine Lance Cpl. Michael J. Smith Jr.
Died April 17, 2004 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom
21, of Jefferson, Ohio; assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, at Twentynine Palms, Calif.; killed April 17 by enemy action in Anbar province, Iraq.
Marine killed in Iraq buried in West Virginia
By Vicki Smith
BEECH BOTTOM, W.Va. — A Marine known for pranks, an offbeat sense of humor and a moral compass that helped to guide other men was buried April 28 in a hilltop cemetery just miles from the town where he grew up.
Hundreds of people lined the streets to pay their respects to Lance Cpl. Michael Smith Jr. as the funeral procession traveled from Steubenville, Ohio, through Follansbee and Wellsburg to the cemetery in Beech Bottom.
Smith, 21, of Wintersville, Ohio, died April 18 from injuries received during enemy action in Al Anbar province in Iraq. He was among four Marines killed. All were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, from Twentynine Palms, Calif.
The military has said information about the attack was being kept vague for security reasons.
Smith was born in Wheeling and grew up in Wellsburg, where he graduated from Brooke High School. He enlisted on Feb. 9, 2001, and was deployed to Iraq last year.
Smith participated in the original U.S. advance on Baghdad and, after a break, returned to Iraq in February. While he was on leave, Smith married the former Alicia Matias, whom he had met in high school. After Smith returned to Iraq, Alicia learned she was pregnant. The child is expected in October.
At the Steubenville church where the newlywed was baptized, confirmed and married, friends and family recalled a man who inspired them with laughter, love and quiet leadership.
An aunt described “a shy, funny little redheaded kid” while a cousin and fellow prankster called him her partner in crime and an “old soul.” His father, Michael Smith Sr. of Wellsburg, said he has tried to describe his son to many reporters in the past week, “but there’s not enough tape in the cameras or time in the world.”
“There’s a void in our hearts that will never be filled,” he said.
Pastor Bethel Bateson said the funeral at Grace Lutheran Church was the hardest she has ever conducted, “because that beautiful red-haired boy playing under the pews grew up to be an incredible man.”
Smith was a hero on and off the battlefield, becoming a leader in his church. On his last military leave, he walked up and down the aisles thanking people for their prayers, letters and packages, Bateson said.
“He was so strong, physically strong, but so tender. He had a tremendous capacity for love,” she said.
Bateson said one of Smith’s uncles recently told her, “Michael is the kind of man every man wishes he could be.”
During the service, the family played two songs that Smith had requested in letters home, Alan Jackson’s “Remember When” and Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven.”
Afterward, several dozen police officers and firefighters escorted the procession, which stretched for several miles, from the church to the cemetery. Residents along the 12.4-mile route displayed American flags, handwritten signs and yellow ribbons, while businesses posted messages of comfort for Smith’s family.
As the procession turned toward the cemetery in Beech Bottom, it passed underneath an arch created by the white, crisscrossed ladders of two fire trucks parked on each side of the street. Smith was a volunteer for the Bethany Pike Fire Department.
At the cemetery, a Marine honor guard fired seven guns three times and a bugler played Taps.
Bateson said people who didn’t know Smith might be skeptical of the praise that others are now heaping upon him.
“He really was that lovable. He really was that good. He really was that kind of man,” she said.
Marine killed in Iraq leaves pregnant wife
WINTERSVILLE, Ohio — A West Virginia native killed in Iraq over the weekend leaves behind a pregnant wife, whom he married last fall.
Marine Lance Cpl. Michael J. Smith Jr., 21, of Wintersville, died Saturday from injuries received from enemy action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, home to Fallujah and Ramadi, where resistance to American troops had been fierce.
Smith’s grandmother, Alice Minto of Wintersville, said she and other family members were told by military personnel that her grandson and another Marine were attempting to assist their sergeant, who had been shot, when both were killed. Minto was told the sergeant also died.
The military said information about the attack was being kept vague for security reasons.
She said Smith had spoken of the loyalty among the members of 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.
“He had told someone, ‘Our sergeant is good, and we watch each other’s back,”’ Minto said.
Smith had served a tour of duty in Iraq and Kuwait from Jan. 25, 2003, to Sept. 4 and participated in the original U.S. advance on Baghdad.
He returned to the United States last fall and married the former Alicia Matias. The two had met in high school.
After Smith returned to Iraq in February, Alicia learned she was pregnant. The child is expected in October.
Smith had become close to his 2-year-old stepdaughter, Elizabeth, and was looking forward to parenting, Minto said.
Minto and Smith’s mother visited him and his wife and stepdaughter in Twentynine Palms, Calif., where he was stationed during a temporary break from the war.
“When we were out there, he changed diapers and everything. I couldn’t believe it,” Minto said.
After returning to Iraq, Smith kept in touch with family through letters, phone calls and e-mails.
“All he would say is, ‘Don’t worry, I’m safe,”’ Minto said. He spoke of his regiment’s work as peacekeeping stabilization operations.
Smith was born in Wheeling, W.Va., and graduated from Brooke High School in nearby Wellsburg, W.Va. He played football at the 1,000-student high school.
Retired Brooke football coach Paul “Bud” Billiard said he nicknamed Smith “All-Purpose Smitty” because he would play any position, as needed.
“When I heard the story about what happened, it didn’t surprise me, because he was a total team player,” Billiard said.
Smith also was a volunteer for the Bethany Pike Fire Department. Past chief Tom DeGarmo Jr. said Smith didn’t formally join the department until he was 18, but spent many hours hanging out and lending a hand at the station before that.
“He was like a son to us,” DeGarmo said.
Smith also is survived by his father, Michael Sr., of Wellsburg, W.Va., and mother, Marianne, of Wintersville in eastern Ohio.
Minto said her grandson’s body is expected to arrive in Dover, Del., this week. She said funeral services are planned at Grace Lutheran Church in Steubenville where Smith was baptized, confirmed and married.
— Associated Press
Ohio native among four killed in Iraq
WINTERSVILLE, Ohio — A Marine who participated in the original U.S. advance on Baghdad was killed in Iraq over the weekend, the Department of Defense said Tuesday.
Lance Cpl. Michael J. Smith Jr., 21, of Wintersville, died Saturday from injuries received from enemy action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. The government did not release more details on how he died.
The Al Anbar Province includes areas in the Sunni Triangle where resistance to American troops had been fierce. It is home to Fallujah and Ramadi, two guerrilla strongholds.
Gunnery Sgt. Frank Patterson, a military spokesman, said information about the attack was being kept vague for security reasons.
Smith was among four Marines killed. All were assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment from Twentynine Palms, Calif.
Smith enlisted on Feb. 9, 2001, and went to Iraq last year. After a break, he returned to Iraq in February.
Smith is survived by his wife, Alicia; a stepdaughter, Elizabeth; his father, Michael Sr., of Wellsburg, W.Va., and mother, Marianne, of Wintersville.
Smith was born in Wheeling, W.Va., and graduated from Brooke High School in Wellsburg, Marine Capt. Jeremy Dempsey said. The body is expected to be returned for funeral services next week, Dempsey said.
Smith played football at the 1,000-student high school and had been focused as a senior on his goal of joining the military, said Principal Dave Walker.
“He was able to realize that goal,” Walker said. “He came back to see us at the school. He was proud of what he was doing and proud of the opportunity to serve his country.”
Ernestine Gorby, a guidance counselor at the school, remembered Smith as active in student clubs, including a program to discourage teens from abusing drugs or alcohol. He served as a volunteer firefighter during much of his high school career.
“As I remember Michael, he was a quiet but very pleasant young man, kind of what I would call the ‘solid citizen,’ the person who you’d want to be your next-door neighbor. He was reliable. He was serious about school,” she said.
After receiving word of Smith’s death from the Brooke County (W.Va.) Firefighters Association, Brooke County commissioners held a moment of silence at their meeting and ordered the courthouse flag lowered to half-staff.
— Associated Press