Air Force Senior Airman Bradley R. Smith
24, of Troy, Ill.; assigned to the 10th Air Support Operations Squadron, Fort Riley, Kan.; died Jan. 3 near Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained while supporting combat operations.
(Taken from www.bnd.com of Jan. 6, 2010) Air Force Senior Airman Bradley R. Smith, 24, came from a close-knit family in Troy, and he was eager to build a family outside of home.
He was a mentor to youth at Bethel Baptist Church and played football and went fishing with his classmates from Triad High School.
He made loyal friends of servicemen at military bases from North Carolina to Kansas.
He married Tiffany Smith in February 2008 and became the proud father of Chloe Lynn in October.
"You could tell he absolutely loved his family," said Smith's uncle, Jessie A. Forrest, of Cordova, Tenn.
And now, Smith's loved ones say he has found his final home in heaven.
On Sunday, not a month after he was deployed to Afghanistan, Smith was killed in an attack on his unit near Kandahar Airfield.
He was among four U.S. service members who died of wounds from improvised explosive devices, marking the first American combat deaths of the year.
Smith, who joined the Air Force in December 2006, was assigned to the 10th Air Support Operations Squadron in Fort Riley, Kan.
"He knew the dangers and all that, but I know that, like everyone, he was very excited to go over there and do his part to serve the country," said Army Specialist Chad Eilering, a former classmate and neighbor of Smith's.
Eilering said he and Smith had known each other since the fifth grade, and went camping together "every other weekend" during middle school.
They used to talk about joining the military together, Eilering said. When the two graduated from Triad High School in 2004, Eilering joined the Army right away.
But Smith was torn between the Army and Air Force.
He eventually followed in the footsteps of his older brother, Ryan Smith, an airman now based in Texas.
"He was intent on serving this country, just like his brother," said Smith's cousin, Alicia Forrest, of Cordova, Tenn.
Jessie Forrest remembers how Smith had long talks regularly with Smith's grandpa, the late Army Master Sgt. Jesie Willard Forrest, a World War II and Korea War veteran.
"One of his greatest fans was his grandfather," Jessie Forrest said. "Brad was one of the finest young men I have ever known. He had a tremendous faith in the Lord."
Smith's pastor, the Rev. Jim Wiens at Bethel Baptist Church in Troy, said the church and community have come together in a "marvelous" way to support Smith's family, including his parents, Gary and Paula Smith, of Troy.
"We've got a lot of military church members, and lots of deployed guys, and this is the first time we've suffered this kind of tragedy," Wiens said. "This is the first time in my ministry that I've had to deal with this. It's a marvelous thing to see how everyone has come together for this wife and young baby, this tiny baby who will now never know her dad."