Veterans History Project: Dennis Smith - - Jackson, MS

Veterans History Project: Dennis Smith (Part 1)

By Jennifer Martin - email

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - You know Dennis Smith as the WLBT News Director and narrator of our weekly segments on veterans. Well, Dennis himself is a veteran. So we're closing out the year with a profile of his years of service.

The military first called to Dennis Smith when he was a student at Hinds Community College. But problems with his vision and hypertension kept him out of the service for many years.

He pursued a career in journalism, until he was finally able to overcome those obstacles and enter the army national guard.

"I was doing a story on Camp Shelby" said Smith. "They had an opening for a Broadcast Officer, asked me if I was interested. I said 'sure, why not?' At the time we did a lot of stories on the national guard, whether it's army, air; really did that all over the world. Went to all these different locations showing things that were happening with the military at that time.

"You could profile all the great things they were doing at that time" Smith added. "A lot of these humanitarian things across the world. Whether it was building roads or bridges or doing medical things for some of these nations around the globe. It was some good stories."

"Our unit was assigned to the 412th Engineer Command, headquartered out of Vicksburg. At that time, you had the Cold War underway. And their mission, they were the wartime construction managers of all of Europe. And we'd go over to Germany with them and then document some of the things they were doing. They were only one of two engineer commands in the entire United States. They were all reservists too. So that's one thing people need to realize that so many of the units in the American army are made up of national guard and reservists.

Smith went along on operations not only in Germany but also the Soviet Union.

"A humanitarian mission was, a number of them actually, by the 172nd airlift group here in Jackson" said Smith. "We would go over there at one point to the country of Moldova to take some medical supplies and it was in the midst of winter and it was very bleak, dreary. And we gave them medical supplies. They unloaded it. They were certainly appreciative.

Smith and his fellow soldiers were almost always treated with gratitude, as they went from country to country aiding those in need.

"The people in Ecuador we very appreciative" said Smith. "This is the first time the American army had gone in there. There had been some earthquakes and the roads were messed up and the engineers were down there building. They were also doing other humanitarian things like building desks and giving medical treatment; pulling teeth and taking care of these people who had never seen a doctor. This is out in the middle of the jungle."

"It was something we all got a lot of benefit from, knowing that when you go to these countries and they are appreciative, you just don't realize how lucky we are here."

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