Veteran to receive diploma

Veteran to receive diploma
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If you attend this year’s Warrensburg graduation commencement, you might notice one of the graduates is different from his fellow graduates, in that he’s approximately five decades their senior. Warrensburg resident, Mr. Brian Smith, will walk across the stage to accept his long-awaited high school diploma, through “Project Recognition.”

Mr. Smith attended school in North Creek until age sixteen. He said, “I absolutely loved school and my teachers. I had to drop out and go work to help out my family.” For two years, Mr. Smith worked at National Lead Mines (now known as Barton Mines) in Newcomb. However, he always had an interest in engines, airplanes, and wanted to explore the world. At the age of 18, Mr. Smith enlisted in the U.S. Navy, and served his country from 1968-1972. He began his military career working on the flight deck. His first job title was a “hacker,” which included several physical jobs such as hauling heavy sacks of food to the decks below. His right pinky finger was a casualty of this duty.

He was eventually promoted to an engine mechanic for F-8 and A-4 jets. During this time, the Vietnam War was fully engaged, and Mr. Smith was aboard the U.S.S. Shangri-la. It was his job to ensure the jets were properly maintained and operating efficiently. “It broke my heart when the same number of jets that left the deck did not return,” said Smith.

In 1972 Mr. Smith was honorably discharged. He traveled to Phoenix, AZ with a Navy friend, who introduced him to his sister. They hit it off and were married. In turn, the friend married Mr. Smith’s sister. During his time in Phoenix, he worked in a steel factory assembling molds and pouring steel. The marriage did not last, however, the friendship of the Navy buddies, who are still brothers-in-law did.

Upon returning to the area, Mr. Smith worked at Gore Mountain for 27 years as a trail groomer and maintaining the chairlifts. In the summer, he works at The Great Escape as a ride operator, where he has received recognition awards and has made several friends of various ages from all over the world, whether they be co-workers or park guests.

Mr. Smith said he is looking forward to wearing a cap and gown, and participating in June’s graduation ceremony. “I’m so grateful to the school district, Doug Duell, and Project Recognition for giving me the opportunity to finally receive my diploma. I don’t feel like I missed out on any opportunities, as the Navy provided me with so many. The world has since changed, and I would encourage all students to stay in school,” Mr. Smith said.

Mr. Smith and his wife, Janice, reside in Warrensburg.

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