VETERANS HISTORY PROJECT
The Best of Times|November 2020
PERSONAL STORIES OF WAR COLLECTED FOR HUGE VETERANS HISTORY PROJECT LIBRARY OF CONGRESS’S ARCHIVE OF 17 U.S. CONFLICTS AND WARS FROM WWI TO PRESENT
Kathleen Ward

They came to schools, museums, hospitals, libraries, churches and nonprofit organizations to record their military experiences for the largest oral history project in history, part of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center Veterans History Project. Among them was former Air Force Master Sargent Jeffrey Smith, 54, who told his story at the Overton Brooks VA Hospital.

“I was just one of the millions of veterans out there, so being even a very small part of something as important as our military history gives a voice to those that didn’t get to come home,” he said. Smith was in the Air Force from 1985 to 2006, serving in three tours of combat duty in the Persian Gulf, as well as Bosnia and Afghanistan.

“I went to the Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal School (NAVSCHEOD) in 1985. This is not a job the military can just put you in because there is a shortage (of personnel),” said Smith. The training was intense and lasted for months. “I can say indisputably that NAVSCHEOD was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done that couldn’t kill me.”

“Desert Storm was my first combat experience. Iraq was a formidable, well-trained, and organized enemy. The goal was clear – liberate Kuwait. We had one of the greatest generals in American history, General Norman Schwarzkopf (who I had the honor of meeting) leading the greatest military of all time.”

“I was on the team that went into Kuwait City a few days after the liberation. The lead guys would kick down the doors and find a booby-trapped entryway and I would clear the booby trap. When the Iraqis left, they booby-trapped everything,” said Smith. “Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) have changed modern warfare dramatically.”

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