David J. Smith
Sergeant, United States Marine Corps
Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 085-10
DOD Identifies Marine Casualty
The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Sergeant David J. Smith, 25, of Frederick, Maryland, died January 26, 2010, from wounds received January. 23, 2010, while supporting combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, based out of Camp Pendleton, Califfornia.
For additional background information on this
Marine, news media representatives may contact the Marine Forces Reserve
public affairs office at 504-678-6539.
As a boy in Frederick, Maryland, David Smith loved to play with his Army and G.I. Joe action figures and spent hours rescuing his older sister Kristen from all manner of imagined peril. As a young man just out of high school, Smith joined the Marine Corps, because he was moved, his friends and family said, to make a difference and put the lives of others ahead of his own. He served in Iraq in 2006 and then volunteered for a tour of duty in Afghanistan. On Tuesday, Sergeant David Smith, 25, died of injuries suffered in a suicide bomber attack.
Smith's family traveled Saturday to Dover Air Force Base to, as his sister Kristen Forse said shakily, "welcome him home."
Smith, a member of the Marine Reserve's 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, shipped out in October to Afghanistan's Helmand province in the south, where a resurgent Taliban movement has made it the deadliest region in the country. On January 23, 2020, Smith and other Marines were supporting Afghan police in providing security around a local bazaar, setting up barbed wire to protect against insurgent attacks, Forse said U.S. military officials and a soldier wounded in the attack told the family.
Somehow, she said, a suicide bomber made it through the security perimeter and detonated a bomb, which killed three Marines and injured four others. A ball bearing from the makeshift bomb hit the back of her brother's head, she said. A medic got Smith's heart beating again, she said, and he was transported to a military hospital in Kandahar, then flown to the Bagram air base and then to Germany, where he was declared brain dead.
Military doctors kept Smith on life support until his father and mother, a scientist at Fort Detrick, were able to fly to Germany, Forse said. Once his parents arrived, doctors removed Smith from life support, and he died. In keeping with his wishes, Smith's organs were donated. "They told us he saved five or six other people because of that," Forse said. "I think David would have liked that."
Lance Corporal Jeremy M. Kane, 22, of Towson and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Xin Qi, 25, of Cordova, Tennessee, were also killed in the blast. They were also assigned to the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.
News of Smith's death shook the close-knit community in Frederick where he grew up. Last week, Frederick High School, where he graduated in 2002, held a minute of silence in his honor. Dazed friends and family have been going through photos of Smith's life, sharing stories and remembering how he lived fully to the end. They recounted what a wild dancer he was, how funny he could be -- his Facebook page proudly pronounces "my only friends are pirates" -- and that he didn't have an enemy in the world. They told stories of Smith, in his dress blues, visiting a friend's father with Alzheimer's disease in a nursing home and spending hours helping friends build a restaurant. And they recalled the time someone broke into his mother's house in the middle of the night and stole her purse, and Smith, barefoot and in boxers, chased the man down the street and gave him what for until the thief cried, "What do you want?" "I want my Mama's purse," Smith said simply. And he got it.
John Bodnar, who was Smith's soccer coach, put his head down on his desk and wept when he heard that Smith had been killed. "He had a lot of heart," Bodnar wrote then in a note. "He was the kind of kid that you hope your own son would turn out like."
Although he played soccer, lacrosse and football in high school and headed off to the University of Salisbury for college, Forse said that she was not surprised when her brother called one day to tell her that he was joining the Marines. "What are you thinking? We're in the middle of a war?" Forse remembers telling him. But he was determined.
"He always protected those who were not as strong as he was, and he's always had a strong sense of right and wrong," she said. "He loved the Marines. He wanted to be a lifer. If there's one thing that's getting us through right now, it's that he died doing what he loved."
Smith will be buried February 9, 2010, in Arlington National Cemetery.
Kristen Forse will always remember her brother's bravery — on and off the battlefield.
Marine Sergeant David J. Smith's fierce devotion to his convictions and undying bravery were apparent to all who knew him, she said, recounting a favorite story.
One night, when Smith was staying at his mother's house, a burglar tried to break in. Smith ran outside in his boxers and bare feet, chasing the suspect and demanding his mother's purse.
It was Smith's acts of kindness and courage, and his lovable and goofy nature that make Forse certain her brother is in the "Marine heaven" he imagined in life.
Smith, a 2002 Frederick High School graduate, died January 26, 2010, from injuries he sustained in combat in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan on Jan. 23, the Marines confirmed Monday. He was 25 years old.
"He believed that once you were a Marine, when you died, you didn't die and go to heaven. When you died, you just went to the next battlefield," she said. "He had no fear of death, he loved the action."
Smith served with the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion Company B, headquartered in Frederick, according to a press release.
"He was destined to be a Marine," said John Bodnar, a teacher at Frederick High School who coached Smith in soccer. Bodnar listed Smith's love for physical challenges, his determination and his positive attitude as reasons. "He obviously was a special kid because eight years later there's a lot of things I remember about him."
Bodnar recalled a specific instance when he started Smith in a soccer game, despite the fact that he was a reserve player. The starting players were getting a little too cocky during a winning streak and "needed an attitude adjustment" and Smith "deserved to start" more than them, he said.
"He was the kind of athlete and kid who didn't talk a good game, he just went out and worked hard every day ... coaches are always grateful and thankful when they have athletes that have those intangible character traits. I was blessed to teach him and coach him," he said.
Brett Templeton, the assistant soccer coach at the time, agreed, calling Smith "an incredibly positive influence" on his peers. Smith was a popular student with teachers and with students, and was good at making people feel "as though you were appreciated and as though you were special," Templeton said.
He said Smith had a lot of school spirit, maintained good grades, played soccer, lacrosse, football and wrestled at various points in his high school career, and "was a cheerleader at all times" for his teammates and school. "Black and gold through and through," Templeton added.
He said it is a Frederick High School tradition for all the boys in the senior class to run onto the field in costume during the annual pep rally, but during his junior year, Smith single-handedly organized the junior boys to do the same, exemplifying his fun-loving attitude.
Forse said her brother's personality is one thing she will miss most. He displayed his silly nature in all sorts of ways, like when he was goofing around with her son, Logan, or wearing a cowboy hat while rapping in a YouTube video with one of his college friends, she said.
Another thing she will miss is how devoted he was to their close-knit family. Smith loved coming home to visit, and would cook for the whole family and then sit on the couch after meals and just talk and joke, she said. When he was deployed or at college in North Carolina, Smith kept family close to his heart. One way was through storing a video of his nephew, Logan, in his cell phone.
"He would show it to everybody, he was so proud of him," Forse said.
Ann Rudd, a Thurmont resident and a cousin of Smith's through marriage, said many of his friends from East Carolina University will be traveling to Frederick to attend the funeral. She said she isn't at all surprised that her cousin made so many friends everywhere he went.
"He was full of life. He enjoyed his life. He was rather light-hearted and there wasn't a lot of negativity that came out of him. You hear it all the time, ‘The good die young,' and in this case it's very true," she said.
Smith joined the Marines in December 2003, and was promoted to the rank of sergeant in April 2009. His awards include the Combat Action Ribbon, the Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and the Armed Forces Reserve Medal, according to a Marines press release.
In addition to his sister, Smith is survived by his parents, Mary Jane McWilliams and Leonard Alan Smith; stepfather John Jones; stepmother Olga Hernandez-Smith; brother-in-law Brian Forse of Frederick; brother Daniel Ross Brown of Charlotte, N.C.; stepbrothers, Jeffrey Jones and wife Katrina of Catonsville, and Brian Jones and wife Kelly of Elkridge; stepsisters, Aline Cook and husband Dave, and Lisette Rothwell and husband Rodney, all of Dallas, Texas; nieces and nephews Logan Cresswell, Vienna Forse, Samuel Jones, Raquel Cook and Dylan and Conner Rothwell; and his girlfriend, Kimberly Mott.
9 February 2010:
Despite the snow on the ground and the threat of more on the way, funeral services are still being held at Arlington National Cemetery. One Marine Sergeant from Frederick was remembered Tuesday.
The line of cars stretched all the way to Arlington National Cemetery. So many were coming for the final farewell to Sergeant David Smith, a Frederick native killed by a suicide bomb last month.
His friend Katie Casey told us, "He just had a love for life. He loved laughing, he loved dancing...and he was proud to serve his country and he made the ultimate sacrifice and I'm grateful."
All the snow has disrupted the funerals at Arlington National Cemetary. There were 13 funerals Tuesday alone and they were unable to do the regular graveside services. Instead, the flag-draped coffin was taken to the columbarium shelter for the parting prayer service.
The 25-year-old Smith enlisted in the Marines soon after graduating from Frederick High School in 2002, did a tour in Iraq and was deployed to Afghanistan last November.
His parents, Leonard Smith and Mary Jane McWilliams, were struggling on this cold winter's day like hundreds of others to comprehend it all.
Smith's buddy in the Marines, Brian Force, ended up marrying Smith's sister Kristen. For him, it's a double loss.
"His loss is very heavy, very heavy," shared his brother-in-law, Sergeant Brian Forse. "It's a bond that's deeper than anyone can imagine, that most will never know in their life."
Smith's parents received the traditional flags along with heartfelt condolences, knowing their son will forever be remembered and loved by so many people.
SMITH, DAVID JAMES
Posted: 1 February 2010 Updated: 4 February 2010 Updated: 9 February 2010 Updated: 10 February 2010 Updated: 7 April 2010