Youngest military coalition member going back to Iraq

By PATTI SELLS | News-Telegram Feature Writer

Feb. 25, 2007 - Hopkins County Military Coalition's youngest member, 24-year-old National Guardsman Clayton Smith was recently honored at a special reception by his veteran peers who presented him with an official U.S. Army watch as he prepared for his second tour of duty in Iraq.

Staff Photo by Angela Pitts

Clayton Smith (right), with his wife, Kaci, at the Hopkins County Military Coalition meeting. The couple wed on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

"It was such an honor for him to be honored by them," said Kaci Fuller Smith, his wife of only three short months. "They say they appreciate him for what he's doing, but we feel like they are the ones who should be honored."

"The members of the coalition are like brothers, family, and like them, I'm proud to serve my country," Smith said.

Smith was given a Bible from Gary Odom of Cowboy Trucking, who wrote the letter of nomination for the Community Pride Award the coalition received at the 81st Annual Membership Chamber Banquet on Feb. 8 for their volunteer service to the community.

Attending First Baptist Church with veteran Clayton McGraw of the Hopkins County Military Coalition, an interest in the coalition was aroused in the young soldier, who served with the U.S. Army in 2003.

The Hopkins County Military Coalition is known for providing military funeral rites for fallen soldiers and other veterans of war. They are supported by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8560, American Legion Post 642, American Legion Post 66 and the local Disabled American Veterans group.

"They serve such a good purpose," said Smith, when asked what prompted him to join the military coalition. "They are still volunteering and giving back after already giving so much."

Smith, who joined the group at their January meeting, received his papers two weeks later and announced his deployment at the February meeting of the coalition.

According to Kaci, her husband will leave soon for Camp Swift in Austin, where he will receive his official deployment date on March 2.

"It's nerve-wracking, especially since we are newly married and just starting our life together," said Kaci, who wed Clayton on Veteran's Day, Nov. 11. "It's a little scary, but he's done it before so he says it won't be as hard this time."

Kaci works at Doodlebug Lane and she is the daughter of Tim and Linda Fuller of Dike. Clayton Smith is the son of Ron Smith and Jan Smith, both of Greenwood, Ind.

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