“My job is to be the Hometown Hero speaker, to share some of my stories, my experiences, telling people some of the things you can do with the Army,” Smith said. “I get to share some of my experiences, some of the things I’ve done.”
Smith certainly has enough stories to keep a crowd enthralled.
If he’s speaking to a recruit who hopes to stay out of the action, Smith can break out his kinder, gentler stories about his time as a recruiter for the U.S. Army. He’s been a recruiter since graduating from Muskegon Community College in 2006.
If he’s looking for more hair-raising stories, Smith has plenty of those as well as he dips back into his four years as a Marine. On one particular night, he put his life on the line to save several other Marines caught in an ambush, and for his bravery and heroism, he was awarded the Bronze Star — one of the most Marine Corps’ most distinguished honors.
“We were actually on our way home that night. It was late, and we had been out doing check points, making sure people were where they were supposed to be,” Smith said. “Our lead truck, which had my best friend in it, was hit with an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) and we were ambushed. We were taking machine gun fire. I took my truck out of the area, then turned around and realized nobody else was behind us and said, ‘We have to go back.’
“We set up security and started shooting back, then went in and saved some guys. It was a pretty tough and long night, but we didn’t end up losing anybody.”
The ironic thing about the entire episode is that Smith wasn’t even supposed to be out on patrol that night.
“I went out on that mission because my best friend was there, and we would go out as often as we could together,” Smith said. “I would fill in as a driver to give other guys time off.”
On Sunday, Smith’s speech will concentrate on his efforts as a recruiter with the Army, which will be celebrating its 236th birthday.
“Pretty much they want me to get across my Army stories, and the fact that the Army has supported me while being able to raise my two beautiful little girls, plus all the leadership courses and additional training I’ve received,” Smith said.
Smith and his wife, Angela — a Spring Lake native — have two daughters: Bevin, 2, and Cayvin, 10 months. They currently live in Benton Harbor.
Smith said he’s relishing his time as a recruiter, but realizes he probably won’t be living the quiet life for long.
“I definitely enjoy being home, spending time with my family and seeing my kids grow up,” he said. “Being deployed is a long time to be away. But at the same time, that’s one of the reasons I joined the military, and that’s who I am, and I’ve been pretty good at it. I do kind of miss it, and in a couple years, we’ll be rotating back, and if we keep things the way they’ve been, I’ll most likely be heading right back over as soon as I’m out of here.”
For the time being, both Daniel and Angela are excited to rub elbows with some of the biggest names in NASCAR, including Ryan Newman, whose race team is sponsored by the U.S. Army.
“My wife’s family is very big into racing, and I started getting into it when I met her,” Smith said. “When the opportunity came down for me to do this, I was pretty excited. My wife’s sister is a huge Ryan Newman fan, so that works out pretty good. I like Ryan, gotta go for my guy, and I like Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) now that he’s driving the National Guard car.”