US Army Circuit. Steven D. Smith, 20, of Bellville, gave his life in service to his country on April 15, 1968, during the Vietnam War.
The 1967 Clear Fork High School graduate was honored Thursday night by community leaders and dignitaries for his bravery with a memorial highway dedication 54 years after his death on Ohio 13 from Bellville North Road to the Interstate 71 NB ramp.
His brother, Donald Smith of Carrollton, Georgia, said he was “delighted” with the tribute to his late brother who traveled to Vietnam in February 1968 and died in the line of duty on April 15 .
“It’s done. It’s over. It was too late,” his brother said. “It’s dragged on for so many years and it’s finally closing and it’s over.”
Donald Smith said his brother’s heroic and selfless actions were just him.
“He did it because that’s what he had to do”
“When he goes in, he goes 100%. If it meant if he went to Vietnam and he got killed, he did it 100%. He did it because that’s what he had to do, that’s what he was supposed to do,” said his brother.
Donald Smith thanked everyone for the signs and the memorial dedication ceremony.
Decorations earned by Smith include the Combat Infantryman Badge, Bronze Star with V, Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, and the Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm Unit Citation.
Smith was a member of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment.
Chuck Sloan, Steven Smith’s cousin, was asked if anyone had a picture of the fallen soldier.
Sloan’s wife, Marge, rolled up the left sleeve of Chuck’s shirt.
A photograph of his cousin’s foot is tattooed on Sloan’s arm with his cousin’s name and the letters KIA
Bill Worner read the citation Smith received, the Bronze Star Medal for heroism in military operations against a hostile armed force in the Republic of Vietnam.
Mortally wounded while trying to reach his comrades
“On April 15, 1968, Company C was conducting a search and destroy operation off LZ Mile High. As they moved cautiously through the dense jungle undergrowth, a large, well-camouflaged NVA force launched an intense barrage of mortar and automatic weapon fire on their position. Several men were wounded in the first volley. As enemy snipers in well-concealed positions in nearby trees increased the casualties, the company C began to regroup and take up effective positions.To cover their movement, Private First Class Smith maneuvered through heavy enemy fire into a position to provide effective covering fire.
“Achieving his objective, he produced very effective return fire which neutralized hostile positions and provided cover for his comrades to evacuate the wounded and move to more effective positions,” Worner said. “Holding his position until the rest of his unit was repositioned, he began to fall back to join them. During this move he was mortally wounded by enemy fire. His brave and skilful actions clearly avoided more serious casualties and allowed his unit to take effective positions safely.
“Private First Class Smith’s exceptional courage, concern for the welfare of his comrades, and exemplary devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and bring credit to himself, his unit, and the US Army,” the quote said.
The ceremony was attended by U.S. Senator Mark Romanchuk, State Rep. Marilyn John, Richland County Commissioners Darrell Banks, Cliff Mears and Tony Vero, Bellville Mayor Teri Brenkus, and friends and members of the family.
The American Legion Post 535 Firing Squad took a final salute and tap dancing concluded the dedication.
After the dedication, Douglas Keppler played bagpipes to the Kneeling Soldier in the new Bellville Cemetery. Smith is buried in Bellville Cemetery.
A replica of Steven Smith’s dog tags were placed on the kneeling new soldier by his brother. Mayor Brenkus had the dog tags made.
Then everyone headed to the new signs for the unveiling with Donald Smith.