1st Sgt. Edward Smith
After 20 years in the Marine Corps, 1st Sgt. Edward Smith, 38, was ready to start a second career as a police officer in Anaheim, Calif.
He had been working as a part-time reserve officer for the department for three years and was named Orange County Reserve Officer of the Year in 2001. He had even won a plum assignment with a special tactical squad assigned to last year's World Series.
Smith died Saturday in Doha, Qatar, from wounds received in action a day earlier in central Iraq.
"He was an unbelievable man ... the best man I've ever known," said his wife, Sandy, at a news conference at the Anaheim police station. With her, their children, Nathan, 12, Ryan, 9, and Shelby, 8.
Ryan tearfully said that when he needed help, his father was there. "It made me feel so good," he said. "He was the best dad you could ever have. I miss him a lot."
Friends described Smith as an all-American Marine who grew up on the South Side of Chicago, the son of a policeman.
He was hired by the Anaheim department in 1999, after graduating at the top of his police academy class. He planned on leaving the Marines in January to work full time as a police officer, but the military took the unusual step of delaying all retirements by a year. His wife said her husband was looking forward to testing himself after 20 years in the Marines without having seen combat.
Fellow police officer J.J. Imperial said he talked to Smith the night he left: "He believed in his country and his men. And he was going to do whatever it took to support his country."
Smith sent e-mails and letters to police colleagues back home, who had given him a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team cap and pin. In a postcard fashioned from a cardboard box, Smith told them "his intention was to wear his SWAT cap all the way into Baghdad," said police spokesman Rick Martinez.
"We all knew Edward was a great man," Sandy Smith said, "and it's so nice to know everybody else knew it, too."
- USA Today and The Associated Press
Anaheim Police Reserve Officer Killed In Operation Iraqi Freedom. Memorial Service to be Held April 17, 2003
ANAHEIM, CA - (April 14, 2003) - The Anaheim Police Department is sad to announce that Anaheim Police Reserve Officer Edward Smith was killed in action outside Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Edward was serving as the 1st Sergeant in the 2nd Tank Battalion, Fox Company, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. He led a company of over 200 Marines in the fight against the Iraqi Regime. First Sergeant Edward Smith served honorably in the Marine Corp for over 20 years, 17 years in Force Recon. During his career, Edward received numerous commendations, including the Navy Commendation Medal and two Navy Achievement Medals. Edward recently received the Honor Graduate award from his Non-Commissioned Officer Training course. He had previously been deployed during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield.
Edward graduated from the Palomar Police Academy in March 1999 and received the "Top Cop" honor graduate award. Edward was hired as an APD Reserve Officer in May 1999. In 2001, Sergeant Smith was honored as the Orange County Reserve Police Officer of the Year, and he received the Reserve Rookie of the Year for the Anaheim Police Department in 2000. He was an active member of the Police Department's Special Tactics Detail and was in the process of becoming a full-time Anaheim Police Officer when his Marine commitment ended in Au gust of 2003.
A Marine Corps Legend Is Buried - inspired thousands of troops who trained under his command
A Marine Corps Legend Is Buried
1st Sgt. Edward Smith Was Killed In Iraq
CAMP PENDLETON -- Marines, Anaheim police officers and the family of 1st Sgt. Edward C. Smith gathered under a gray sky Thursday to remember the man whose physical stamina and mental toughness inspired thousands of troops who trained under his command.
About 300 people packed the Marine Memorial Chapel at Camp Pendleton, where police officers and Marines eulogized the 38-year-old father of three who had planned to retire from the military in January.
Smith, a Gulf War veteran and reserve officer with the Anaheim Police Department, was the highest-ranking enlisted Marine to die in the war in Iraq.
Many of those who spoke Thursday said they are struggling to understand how Smith, who could have been far from enemy fire because of his rank, would be killed.
"I don't know the accounts of how he was killed, but I guarantee you it was saving his Marines, exposing himself to fire to set an example," said Sgt. Major Dan Hakala, who was friends with Smith for 17 years.
Hakala and others praised Smith as a natural leader whose endurance and passion inspired them to keep moving even when they were at the point of collapse.
Smith, a Chicago native, had decided to retire in January but the military delayed all retirements for a year and he was shipped overseas with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, based at Camp Pendleton. He wasn't eager to go to war in Iraq, but, according to his wife, Sandy, he wanted to test himself after 20 years in the Marine Corps without seeing combat.
"He said he was sorry he was leaving," his wife told reporters earlier this month.
On Thursday, she wiped away tears as she sat in the front row of the Marine base chapel with the couple's three children -- Nathan, 12, Ryan, 9, and Shelby, 8 -- and Smith's parents, Ronald and Barbara.
Marines in uniform carried Smith's flag-draped casket to the front of the chapel, where a wreath of red roses decorated the altar. A large photo of Smith, wearing his police uniform and a serious expression, was displayed at the side. At the close of the service, a Marine bugler played "Taps."
Earlier Thursday, about 1,000 people attended a memorial service in Anaheim.
Smith's remains were to be buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.