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North Texas Town Bids Farewell to Lieutenant Killed in Iraq

By Catherine Cuellar, KERA 90.1 reporter

Dallas, TX – Catherine Cuellar, KERA 90.1 Reporter: From enlisting in the army last year to role-playing with the Society for Creative Anachronism, 30-year-old Brian Smith was fascinated with armor. Though he practiced labor and employment law in Austin, he wanted to start with basic training and work his way up through the ranks, according to his father, retired orthodontist William Smith of McKinney.

Dr. William Smith, father of 2nd Lt. Brian Smith: It's very easy to remain in the rear with the gear. It's very difficult to follow your wishes and pursue the idea of handling an Abrams M1A1, which is our front line battle tank. In the end he was in command of four of them, a platoon.

Cuellar: On the eve of Independence Day weekend, the Smiths learned their son died in the line of duty.

Dr. Smith: Brian was told to keep buttoned up and stay in his vehicle, stay in his tank. Because tanks are not designed to be driven on expressways or concrete, they sometimes break linkages or they have suspension problems and you throw a tread. A tank without tread is somewhat useless. So as soon as he arrived at his observation point I understand he bailed out of his tank to check linkage and suspension on one side of his tank

Cuellar: Though Smith's flak jacket protected his front and back, when he lifted his arm, his side was vulnerable. A sniper fatally shot him under his armpit.

Growing up in a military family, Brian knew the risks. His maternal grandfather served in World War II, and his father was stationed with the U.S. Army in Germany when Brian was a young boy. The Smiths moved to Texas before Brian started school, and he graduated from McKinney High in 1990. An Eagle Scout, Brian put flags on the graves of veterans on Memorial Day. At the University of Texas in Austin, Brian met his wife K.C. through the S.C.A., a group that celebrates Renaissance customs and crafts and dresses in elaborate period costumes. Beth Sawyer is Brian's aunt.

Beth Sawyer, aunt of 2nd Lt. Brian Smith: He does wonderfully silly things like wearing something that would look like a fur trader of the time, going around this banquet hall trying to woo the ladies, all in fun, not anything personal, he figured would make people laugh and add fun to the festivities.

Cuellar: After earning a B.A. in history from UT in 1994, Brian earned a law degree from Baylor in 1998. He worked in McKinney for a year before moving to Austin to be close to his future wife. Brian's mother Linda says when war became imminent, he was determined to serve.

Linda Smith, mother of 2nd Lt. Brian Smith: This Iraqi thing came up and he took a look at his age and the age that the army would not take you any longer due to the physical requirements and such. He had LASIK, and they told him he couldn't fly because they didn't know how your eyes would react under the high pressure some of those pilots have to go through. If he couldn't do jets, then he would have to do tanks, so he joined up.

Cuellar: Though many family friends advised against it, Linda Smith says her son's enlistment typified his sense of responsibility.

Linda Smith: Kids are different once they're grown up. You hope that they become productive and get out there like they're supposed to, and it's fun to see the changes that they make from the stupid little mistakes they make as a kid to the responsible things as a grown-up. We all hope that, and I got to see that he was a pretty good kid and a pretty good grown-up. He treated his wife well, certainly treated his mother well, and last time I talked to him he called me on my birthday, which was June 3rd. He was a good son.

Cuellar: 2nd Lt. Brian Smith's funeral will be held tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. at First United Methodist in McKinney. For KERA 90.1, I'm Catherine Cuellar.


Email Catherine Cuellar about this story.