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Monday, November 10, 2008

John Brownlee Honors Virginia Veteran Lester Smith

This story touched me. I owe everything I have to WW2 vets like Lester Smith.

A World War II veteran received a long-overdue award just two days shy of Veterans Day. Lester Smith earned one of the three highest military honors, the Silver Star. But Smith never formally received the award.

He earned it in April of 1945 when he was trying to liberate a German town. When enemies attacked, he had to defend himself – killing two men with machine guns and hurting four riflemen.

On Sunday, family and friends gathered at Victory Baptist Church in Fieldale to celebrate the true American hero.

After he’s given the award, Smith said, “Just fighting to keep the tears back that was all. In fact I told them before I felt like I was going to break down.”

Smith’s sisters brought the newspaper article from the 1940’s proving he earned it, but he never got it. At that time, Smith said it wasn’t worth the effort.

“It isn’t worth fighting that traffic in D.C. to talk to anybody for just a Silver Star. But I didn’t know it would be something like today. Something like today would have made it worthwhile,” he laughed.

Beside him were his family and friends, who just a couple years ago, put in some calls to help make this happen. One day the phone rang, and it was a lady from John Warner’s office.

“John Warner asked her to check me out. I said ‘Lady, I hate to tell you this, but you’re wasting your time,’” Smith explained.

He thought that was the end until he got the medal in the mail, which has been sitting in his home ever since. It wasn’t officially pinned in a ceremony until Sunday.

Former U.S. Attorney, John Brownlee, helped organize the ceremony after he met Smith at a veteran’s event.

“He figured although he had done wonderful things on the battlefield this wasn’t important to push the issue himself,” Brownlee said.

Bringing the story full circle and sealing it with a salute from Smith – a great reward for a member of the Greatest Generation.

Smith now has two medals. He received the Bronze Star with a valor device after the Battle of the Bulge. He’ll turn 90 next month.

The only individual decorations higher than the Silver Star are the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Cross and Medal. Watch the Video.

Take a minute to go watch this hero receive his Silver Star. My hat is off to John Brownlee for making this day special for one of the greatest generations finest. I bet Brownlee would be the first to say it was a honor to be in the presence of a man like Lester Smith.

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