Randy Smith: Remembering The Veterans

Thursday, May 22, 2014 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith

Today is one of those days that I shy away from writing about sports. It’s almost Memorial Day; the holiday each year that I pause and remember our servicemen and women who gave their lives so that you and I could live and do what we please.

Each Memorial Day I especially remember one serviceman in particular; my uncle, Private David Young Smith who was killed in World War II. I was born seven years after my uncle died. I have a few old pictures of him that I received from one of my cousins and I also have his Purple Heart and his Silver Star medals.

Uncle David and my dad were very close. They were just a couple of years apart in age, and before entering the army, they spent every hour together. I’m told they were really good at shooting pool; so good in fact, they used to hustle older men in east Nashville in the taverns and bars. David who was two years older than my dad went to war first. He joined the 159th Combat Engineers from his base in Alabama, and was among the thousands of soldiers who stormed the shores of Normandy in France. They were part of the second wave to hit Omaha Beach, and drive their way inland.

One warm sunny day in August, the 159th had stopped to rest near a small, quaint French village. My uncle and a couple of his buddies were in the back of a supply truck moving boxes around, when a hand grenade fell from one of the men’s belt clips. It was never known which man’s clip it had come from, but the pin had fallen out and the three men had just a few seconds to decide what to do, before dozens, maybe hundreds would perish or be injured in the blast from the live grenade.

Uncle David did what he had been trained to do. He took off his helmet and dropped down on the floor of the truck bed and covered the grenade. The blast blew a huge hole in the bottom of the truck as well as in my uncle’s mid-section, but no one else was harmed.

As he lay dying on the ground, the French villagers cared for him as his comrades moved on further inland.  There were tears in the eyes of many of his buddies as they were forced to leave him behind in the French countryside. The day was August 7, 1944 and the war would be over in less than a year.

When the 159th Combat Engineers returned home to their families, many of them named their sons David after my uncle. They also staged a long battle to have Private David Y. Smith commissioned with the Congressional Medal of Honor; our country’s highest military award for bravery. He had already been awarded the Purple Heart and the Silver Star, but there was one small catch in the Medal of Honor criteria; his act of bravery did not take place in military conflict against the enemy. That bit of information was finally given to his family in 2001, when he was presented with the Silver Star. It seems that he had been awarded the medal but his family had never received it. Thanks to the efforts of Congressman Zach Wamp in Chattanooga, the medal was presented to my son David in a special ceremony.

On August 7th of this year, we will mark the 70th anniversary of Uncle David’s death. His body still lies in the Brittany Memorial Cemetery in France; a place that none of my family has ever visited, but will hopefully visit soon.

My grandmother had four sons, and all four served in the military, with three of them fighting in World War II. Please remember these fallen heroes on Memorial Day. And if you see a veteran who is still with us, go up to them, hug them and say thank you. Because of their efforts and sacrifices, we as citizens of this great country have the freedom to enjoy this holiday and many more.

-----

Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer. He is currently teaching Broadcasting at Coahulla Creek High School near Dalton, Ga.

His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for thirty years.

He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga Television for more than a quarter-century.

In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson. They have two married children, (Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith.) They have three grandchildren, Coleman, Boone and DellaMae.

To contact Randy: rsmithsports@epbfi.com



Lookouts - Barons Thursday Double Header Postponed

For the second consecutive day, the Lookouts have been unable to play the Birmingham Barons at AT&T Field due to inclement weather. Thursday night's scheduled games were cancelled following the same on Wednesday night. Game one will be made up  tomorrow  ( July 3rd ) as part of a doubleheader at  5:15 p.m .  Both games will be seven innings ... (click for more)

Tickets Sell Out In 1 Day For U.S. Women’s National Team Soccer Match At Finley Stadium

Tickets sold out in one day for the U.S. Women’s National Team’s match against Costa Rica at Finley Stadium.  There will be over 20,000 fans in attendance on Wednesday, Aug. 19, at 6:30 p.m. The match will be on ESPN2. Officials said it is just the fourth sellout in the history of the 18-year-old stadium. It sold out faster than the prior three sellouts. ... (click for more)

Healy Says Bass Pro Shop At East Ridge To Get Underway Next Month, New Hotel, Restaurants Planned Nearby; Sewers Are An Issue

Commercial realtor John Healy said Thursday that construction is set to start next month on the Bass Pro Shop at Exit 1 in East Ridge. He said it is due to open next May. Mr. Healy also said Wolftever Development that is carrying out the project has also bought additional land near the Bass Pro Shop site at the entrance to Camp Jordan Park. He said one purchase is America's Best ... (click for more)

Work Set To Start In October On $28 Million Retail, Office, Apartment Development At The 700 Block of Market Street

An Atlanta developer said work will start in October on a $28 million retail, office and apartment complex in the long-vacant middle of the 700 block of Market Street. Boyd Simpson of the Simpson Company said the project was made possible because his firm also owns the adjacent SunTrust Tower and can use some of its excess parking for occupants of the new building. He said ... (click for more)

Police Need To Stop The Road Cowboys - And Response (2)

Where is our highway patrol?  If they were known to regularly patrol our interstate highways through our city I don't think it would take long before the "truckers" were aware of it.  There are places in our country where this is the case.   When I have traveled Interstates 24 and 75 I may see the occasional car pulled over but rarely if ever is it an 18-wheeler. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Never Disturb The Dead

I’ve got too many things in my life that scare me so I’ve always been real leery of “unnecessary fear.” A guy named Terry wanted to teach me how to catch a live rattlesnake one time but had a tough time telling me what exactly to do with the angry serpent when the time came to let it go. I have the same view of these paranormal societies where otherwise sane people go around looking ... (click for more)