Face of Defense: Fourth Deployment Brings Reflection to Marine
By Gunnery Sgt. Brenda L. Varnadore, USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service
RAMADI, Iraq, Nov. 7, 2007 Marine Sgt. David Smith III said he believes joining the Marine Corps for action was the right decision. He has been a part of many conflicts in his four years in the Marine Corps and would have it no other way.
Marine Sgt. David Smith III, a squad leader for 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, poses for a photograph in Ramadi, Iraq. Smith is on his fourth deployment. Photo by Gunnery Sgt. Brenda L. Varnadore, USMC
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Smith, a squad leader with Company C, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, joined the Marine Corps with the desire to see what was outside Port Huron, Mich., where he grew up, while helping others experience the freedom he enjoyed in his younger years.
“I definitely got what I was looking for,” the Port Huron High School graduate said.
Smith has played a role in the Marine Corps’ recent history, beginning with his first deployment with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, which deployed to Haiti during 2004 after severe flooding and mudslides hit the country, throwing it into civil unrest. The United States sent a task force to provide much-needed assistance.
”We played a multifaceted role in Haiti,” Smith said. “On one hand, we provided humanitarian assistance; on the other hand, we were trying to quell the civil unrest. It was everything I thought the Marines would be.”
After returning from Haiti, Smith turned around and left for what would be his most challenging duty: Fallujah, Iraq.
“We got there in time for Operation Al Fajr,” he said. “The Battle of Fallujah was a long-awaited one, and it was more intense than I ever would have thought. But, I can say that I have experienced true war and really learned the importance of relying on the man to your right and left.”
Upon returning to the United States, Smith was not destined for a break. He was transferred to 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, and deployed with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. While with the MEU, Smith again had the chance to learn what a force in readiness really means. “We were enjoying our cruise around the Mediterranean when we found out what we had in store for us,” Smith said. “I started thinking, ‘Am I bad luck, or am I really just getting what I wished?’”
Smith became a part of the team that evacuated nearly 15,000 U.S. citizens from Lebanon after fighting broke out between Israel and Hezbollah during August 2006. He said that after all he had seen already, it was nice to be on a mission that hit a little closer to home.
“You can know you are defending your country,” he said. “But, when you are saving Americans from harm’s way elsewhere, well, there is a feeling of importance there.”
The MEU deployment also gave Smith something else he was looking for and didn’t know, a future fiancee. During his deployment, he started communicating with Michelle Marion through the Internet. He had met her through a friend and figured it would give him someone to talk to. After he returned, they both were going to be in Raleigh at the same time and decided to meet up.
“I took one look at her and that was it, history had been written,” Smith said. “We are going to get married after I get back.”
When Smith said “get back,” he meant from his current deployment to Ramadi, Iraq. “It is different here than last time,” he said. “It is so peaceful here, especially compared to the last time. But, it is good to have a chance to see the people happy and how far the country has come. I would consider my last time combat, this time, security.”
Although he just returned to Iraq, Smith said he is undoubtedly pleased with the opportunity to mingle with the Iraqi population and work with the Iraqi police and army. Now, he said, his biggest job is calming his two sets of parents residing in Port Huron, including his mother and stepfather, Theresa and Troy Warsheski, and his father and stepmother, Sandy and David Smith II.
“Last time I was here, I kept telling them, ‘It’s not that bad,’” Smith said. “Now I keep telling my parents, ‘No, really, this time it is calm.’ But, you don’t want anyone to worry about you, and now there really is no need.”
Smith is unclear about what the Marine Corps holds for him next, but said he is excited because, just when he thought he had done it all, he realizes he hasn’t.
(Marine Gunnery Sgt. Brenda L. Varnadore is assigned to 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.)