Dick Smith was walking on an army base in Heidelberg, Germany, with his wife and pushing his daughter in a stroller when a car bomb went off about two blocks away, “just as families were coming in in the evening to go to the PX and watch a movie.”
The story is a reminder that terrorism has been a threat to American military personnel for a long time.
“We had a colonel killed by a bomb and some other stuff we got involved in,” said Smith, who served for two years in Germany during a six-year army stint that started when he was drafted in 1971.
Smith, pastor of Brookfield United Methodist Church, spoke at the annual Brookfield Rotary Club veteran’s luncheon Nov. 12. It was his first time attending.
Smith attended infantry school at Fort Pope – now known as Pope Army Airfield, Fayetteville, N.C. – but was moved to the Criminal Investigation Division because he had been to business school and had an auditing background, he said.
“I was an investigative auditor,” he said. “Went from thinking I was gonna be over in Nam to driving around plain clothes, unmarked cars doing investigations with CID.”
At the luncheon, Smith, who lives in Girard, handed out thank-you cards made by Jessica Zebroski’s kindergarten class at Brookfield Elementary School.
“I’m blessed,” he said. “I was not wounded or anything like that. I did my time, and I really appreciated the experience and a lot of the people I met. Enjoyed meeting a lot of you guys since I got here to Brookfield. Sincerely appreciate all that you’ve done.”
Other vets who attended the lunch were Rotary members Ellwood Walker, who served in the marines in Vietnam; Wade Foltz, an army reservist who stayed stateside during the Vietnam War; and Bill Litman, an army supply sergeant who was stationed in Japan during the Korean War; John Jablonski, an army paratrooper who served during the Vietnam War, but never was deployed there; Jim Miller, who served in Vietnam working airport security for the army; Jaime Fredenburg, who spent 22 years in the navy, most of it in the reserves, but spent a year in Kuwait in 2006-07; Dan Suttles, who spent 1978-82 as an air force firefighter, two of them in Germany; and George Chomos, who served in the army finance corps.
Miller noted that he spent only two years in the service, but those two years changed him for life, teaching him discipline and respect and forcing him to grow up physically and mentally. He has spent much of his life since then as a member of veterans’ groups and championing their causes. He’s currently active in the Sharon American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars Posts and the Mercer County disabled and Vietnam vets’ groups.
“That’s my whole life since I retired, was going to veteran’s groups, going to meetings and trying to keep it going,” said Miller, a 1965 Brookfield High graduate and post commander of the former Masury VFW. “Being a veteran, I’m proud. I’m proud of everybody in this room. I’m glad of being a veteran.”