SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS - 9/9/2012) -- Dressed in a
silver and black dress, 3-year-old Chloe Smith stood beside her
mother, Tiffany, as they accepted a Silver Star award today in honor
of Senior Airman Bradley R. Smith who was killed in action at the
age of 24 in Afghanistan Jan. 3, 2010.
Maj. Gen. Lawrence L. Wells, 9th Air Force commander, presents the
Silver Star to Tiffany Smith, widow of Senior Airman Bradley Smith
(far right) during a ceremony Sept. 8, 2012 in Troy, Ill. Smith
spent only a few weeks with his new daughter, Chloe, now almost age
3, before deploying to Afghanistan where just months later he was
killed by an IED during a firefight. As a Tactical Air Control Party
member, or TACP, Brad was part of a two-man team assigned to support
a 13-man Army platoon and was trained to call in close air support
should the men come under fire and need the battlefield neutralized
from above. U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade
Maj. Gen. Lawrence Wells, 9th Air Force commander,
presented the medal "on behalf of a grateful nation and even
more grateful Air Force" to Smith's widow, his parents, Gary
and Paula Smith, and to Tech. Sgt. Ryan Smith, Brad's
brother, during a ceremony in Troy, Ill.
receiving the award, Tiffany said she was thankful for the
efforts of everyone who took part in seeing that Brad
received the honor he had earned.
"When I first
learned of what Brad did, I wasn't filled with pride like I
am today," she said. "Quite frankly I was very upset at him
and would just yell out 'Why didn't you keep your head
down?' or 'Why couldn't you have just been a coward ... just
this once?' In the midst of my tantrum, a good friend
reminded me that Brad wasn't trying to be a hero, and that
he wasn't trying to do anything more than what he thought
was right and necessary ... and that 'coward' wasn't a word
that he knew.
"Over time I could see that he was just
being true to the kind of man that he was. He was my hero
long before his death. His passion for life, love for his
family and dedication to always bettering himself is what
made Brad my hero. This Silver Star solidifies what I
already knew about my husband, and it will serve as a
reminder of the hero that he truly was ... both in the way
he lived and died."
Wells recounted the significance
of the Silver Star--the third highest award for military
members--and said that Brad exemplified heroism in combat.
"Brad's life embodied gallantry in action, which started
long before the tragic event that took his life," he said.
"On Sept. 11, 2001--Brad's 16th birthday--he watched with
the rest of the world as terrorists attacked the Twin Towers
and the Pentagon. It was only five short years later that he
joined the Air Force and brought his talent to the fight for
the Global War on Terrorism. When he enlisted, he became
part of the one percent of Americans who proudly serve our
nation ... knowing that he would be called to action during
a time of war."
As a former football player for Triad
High School, Brad knew what it meant to be part of an elite
team like the Tactical Air Control Party, explained Wells.
"You have to be the best of the best ... and Brad
excelled [at everything he did]. I stand in awe of
everything he accomplished in just four short years of Air
Force service. ...Our TACP warriors are not common men. They
are uncommonly brave ... committed to leaving no one behind
and always demonstrating valor in the face of the enemy.
Duty first, always ready. Well done our good and faithful
The Silver Star travelled 370 miles from
Fort Riley, Kan., carried by members of Brad's unit, the
10th Air Support Operations Squadron during a 24-hour ruck
march that ended in a heavy downpour as the entire team
walked the last mile into town. Other TACPs from the 168th
and 169th ASOS Guard units from Peoria, Ill., joined them in
formation for the award ceremony.
Senior Airman Ben
Nobles, 10th ASOS, said the ruck march was a physical
memorial to show support to the Smith family.
was hot and physically challenging," he said, "but we were
all motivated to do this for Brad."
with the unit was Senior Airman Mike Malarsie, who was with
Brad the day he was killed. Malarsie was Brad's TACP partner
and they were trained to call in close air support should
the Army platoon they were assigned to need "help from
above." Their patrol entered a village when an IED
triggered, killing two soldiers and seriously wounding
Malarsie. Brad and Army medic Brian Bowman went to his aid
and got him to safety. After continuing to direct close air
support, Brad and Bowman went to retrieve the body of one of
the fallen soldiers when the second IED triggered, killing
both men instantly.
Though blinded, Malarsie
continues to serve on active duty, and spoke fondly of Brad
during the ceremony, recalling several conversations and
humorous moments that shed light on Brad's personality.
"We had nothing but fun ... even in some of our
firefights," he said. "We loved our job ... we were mostly
concerned with protecting the guys on the ground. I don't
remember a whole lot about that day, but what Brad did was
not surprising ... that's who he was, and it was an honor
for me to have served with him. His legacy will live on."
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn also addressed the audience and
said that while "God did not give Brad a long physical life,
he gave Brad a purposeful life." He praised the Smiths for
raising sons with high moral values and offered his thanks
to them for their continued service to other parents who've
lost a child.
"It is the duty of the living to
ensure our heroes are not forgotten," he said. "Brad had a
servant's heart ... and our faith teaches us that we will
see him again."
No one knows that better than his
mother, Paula, who said Brad would be embarrassed by "all
this commotion" surrounding him today. But, that he'd also
be humbled by the show of support, and the kindness and
generosity of everyone who has made this possible. She
recited Brad's favorite scripture that spoke to being
"strong and courageous ... do not be discouraged ... do not
be terrified, for your Lord God will be with you wherever
"There have been many days filled with
grief, loneliness, heartache and sadness," she said. "But
then there are days like today filled with hope, compassion,
friendship, unity, extreme thankfulness, pride ...
celebration and remembrance. There is no greater love than
this ... that a man lay down his life for his friends. Thank
you everyone for making this a wonderful day."
By Karen Petitt, 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Air Force News Service
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Silver Star Recipients