Thursday, July 3, 2008

     

 

 

 

Home, again
Kemp graduate-turned soldier, Sgt. Robert Smith, returns home after four tours of service in Iraq
Special to The Monitor
KEMP–A Kemp family prepared a warm homecoming for U.S. Army Sgt. Robert Smith recently. He returned to his parents Jan and Don Smith and sister Sarah, having completed his fourth tour of duty oversees.
When Robert Smith joined the Army in May, 2001, following his graduation from Kemp High School, he looked forward to an exciting military career. What he got was beyond his expectations.
Back then, the country of Iraq and its chief city Baghdad were rarely mentioned in the news, since Robert joined four months before Sept. 11, 2001 – the attack on the World Trade Center twin towers and the Pentagon.
Neither did he know of Ali Hassan al-Majid, the person responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi Kurds and was dubbed “Chemical Ali” by the Kurds.
This man ordered the release of chemical weapons on Kurdish towns and villages.
These places and person would become very much a part of Robert’s future.
After basic and advanced individual training, Robert was stationed in Vicenza, Italy with the Southern European Task Force.
As a member of a Special Operations Unit in the 173rd Airborne Brigade, Robert performed missions into Kosovo and Africa, from 2001-2002.
In March of 2003, the 173rd Airborne was ordered to make a combat jump into Kirkuk, Iraq. A thousand paratroopers jumped with great precision and eventually took control of the air base.
Robert spent 13 months with the 173rd in and around Baghdad and in the northern city of Kirkuk.
At the conclusion of this tour, Robert returned stateside and was attached to the 1st Cavalry out of Fort Hood. After additional training he was sent back to Iraq for another tough tour.
Robert was stationed at Camp Eagle in a huge slum area of Baghdad called Sadr City. Robert took part in many battles and missions, some so intense that Sadr City became known as the site of the bloodies battles of the war.
Following this intense nine-month tour, Robert was highly commended and decorated. The unit was short of tank and heavy armament commanders as well as gunners, so volunteers were asked to step forward. Robert was one of them.
He learned the Army’s GPS systems and the highly technical gun operations, while in action and became one of the best gunners in the unit.
He eventually became a lead gunner in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and completed this third tour the mid-2005.
Since Robert was well trained, experienced and excelled in his assignments, he received special orders to be a part of a new unit being formed in Fort Lewis, Washington. He is currently a member of the 38th Stryker Infantry Regiment, under the 1st Battalion in the 2nd Infantry Division.
This unit is a quick response force, capable of possibly conquering Baghdad and taking the fight to Al Qaeda quickly and fiercely.
These officers and soldiers performed the assignments given them with aplomb.
It took a little more than a year to assemble and train the soldiers on specialized equipment to operate the new “Stryker” combat machine.
Stryker Brigade Combat Teams were created, trained and sent to Baghdad to start the surge that we all heard about.
During a battalion formation, President Bush declared through a video teleconference that this unit was the most successful combat unit since the beginning of the war. Robert was among those team members who were awarded a memorial coin by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen.
We, his family, would like to thank everyone for all the prayers and support for the last seven years for Robert’s continued safety, endurance, courage under fire and return.
We are very proud of Robert and what he has done and will continue to do for our country.


Courtesy photo
Robert Smith (top left) stands with other members of his Stryker Combat Team
in front of their mobile Stryker Combat Machine.

Events for the Fourth
Monitor Staff Reports
CEDAR CREEK LAKE–Everyone is looking forward to the Fourth of July and the celebration of our country’s birth.
Besides the private events that are becoming a part of the celebration here at Cedar Creek Lake there are quite a few public events taking place as well.
The Seven Points Volunteer Fire Department is holding its annual fireworks show around 9 p.m. Friday, July 4. Folks begin gathering on the lawn behind the library by the city park to view the light show from the back of pickups and lawn chairs, while enjoying home-brought refreshments.
Earlier in the day the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4376 in Seven Points is holding a patriotic program at 1 p.m. with featured speakers, patriotic music and post program refreshments. The post is located on Veterans Lane just south of the intersection off State Highway 274 by the bowling alley.
The Business and Civic Association of Kemp is also holding a daytime event with the Kemp July Fest on Saturday, following the Fourth, at the park.
Musical entertainment under the new pavilion is on tap, food and game booths are part of the fun with a parade starting at 2 p.m. down Main Street, one block west of Business 175 (Elm Street).
All are encouraged to wear their red, white and blue and celebrate being an American.
Gun Barrel City is hosting its inaugural July 4 Festival with the same pyrotechnics who treated the lake area at the All Things Christmas Festival last year.
Festivities are set to be held from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday at the city park on Municipal Drive.
Several bands are scheduled to provide the entertainment, while food booths are hosted by school groups. The police department will be offering free fingerprinting and ID kits for the kids and the fire department will pass out free hats for the kids.
Picnic blankets and lawn chairs are all that’s needed.
A semi-private event is set for 7 p.m. Saturday, July 5. The Pinnacle Golf and Boat Club is hosting an air show, featuring Pinnacle resident Randy Ball, and active-duty Navy and Air Force pilots. Non residents may view the aerial show from the water. A specific area in front of the clubhouse will be off-limits for safety reasons. A fireworks show follows at 9 p.m.The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary will be stationed in the area to ensure the safety of the event.
The annual fireworks show at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens is set for sunset, around 9:15 p.m. Police will be directing traffic to designated parking areas and erecting detours to aid in efficient departures after the show.
Gun Barrel City, Mabank, Tool, Enchanted Oaks, Payne Springs and Kemp remind citizens that the igniting of fireworks within the city limits is against the law and encourage citizens to enjoy the free fireworks displays especially provided for them.
Area law enforcement will be beefed up for the holidays, looking especially for those driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Have a safe and happy Fourth of July.
 


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