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




Former Moc Davis Tull Signs With The Rams

Former UTC All-American Davis Tull signed with the Los Angeles Rams this week.  Tull, a three-time Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year, was a fifth round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints in 2015.  Most recently, Tull was with the Saskatchewan Rough Riders in the Canadian Football League and has also spent time with the Atlanta Falcons.  ... (click for more)

NASCAR Racer Joey Coutler Takes Crossville Ultimate SLM Checkers

In front of a large crowd Friday night, former NASCAR Camping World Truck series winner Joey Coulter of Miami Springs, Fl., won his first career Super Late Model feature at Crossville Speedway on the Cumberland Plateau just West of Knoxville. Winning the $4,000 Ultimate SLM event fourth-starting Coulter took command with a bold first-lap slide job over polesitter Billy Ogle ... (click for more)

Excitement Builds As Tennessee Valley Prepares For Monday's Eclipse

Sandra Nicholson, director of the Edu-Care Daycare Center on Signal Mountain, is as ready for  Monday’s  historic solar eclipse as she’s ever going to be. It took some doing, she said, but she has finally enough pairs of NASA-certified solar safety glasses for everyone in her family.  She’s just one of the tens of thousands of Tennessee Valley area residents ... (click for more)

Berke, Hinton Moving To Have City Removed As Trustee Of Confederate Cemetery

Mayor Andy Berke on Friday said he has asked City Attorney Wade Hinton, on behalf of the city of Chattanooga, to file the necessary paperwork "to confirm the city is no longer listed as a trustee of a Confederate Cemetery on East Third Street." Mayor Berke said, “Our action today makes it clear that the city of Chattanooga condemns white supremacy in every way, shape and ... (click for more)

Mayor Invites Civil War II - And Response (16)

I just received an email from the Mayor stating that he filed paperwork to remove the city of Chattanooga as the trustee for the Confederate Cemetery on Third Street. I understand the Mayor's intent was to distance the city from it's racist past and subsequent hate, but I feel like this is an interesting move without much thought of the consequences. The Mayor prefaced his ... (click for more)

Berke Plan To Solve Discrimination Is To Kick Dead Veterans To The Curb

Racism and discrimination is wrong. What is the best way for a parent to teach a child the evils of discrimination? Should the parent demonstrate and repetitively incentivize the proper behavior? Or, would it be more productive to badger the child over and over again for the sins of the child's g-g-g-grandfather who died 150 years ago? Would burning the personal effects of the grandfather ... (click for more)