By Mr. Ronald W Wolf (Army Medicine)October 3, 2018
How much valor can you stuff into a ballroom? The Military Services YMCA attempted to answer that question on Oct. 2, 2018, at the 12th Annual Angels of the Battlefield Awards Gala. The event honored medics and corpsmen -- one from each branch of the services -- for their lifesaving actions. About 400 guests and honorees from all branches of the military services, including two Medal of Honor recipients, attended in formal military dress, each bringing their own experiences of duty, honor and courage.
The award recipients were Army Sgt. 1st Class Darius L. Smith, Marine Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Aaron J. Herman, Navy Chief Hospital Corpsman Jaclyn N. Place, Air Force Senior Airman Linda M. Wilson, and Coast Guard Aviation Survival Technician 3rd Class Richard C. Hoefle.
Each of the award recipients had his or her story of action, character and valor to save one or more lives described during the evening.
Smith, who has 15 years of service and is currently assigned to Schofield Barracks, was nominated for the award by Col. Deydre Teyhen, commander of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. In 2006, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Smith was awarded the Silver Star for his quick response to save one of the members of his platoon.
As Smith went to provide aid to an injured member of his unit, they came under heavy fire. He moved the wounded soldier to cover, which fully allowed his unit to respond to the attack, possibly saving their lives as well, because they no longer had to focus on protecting the wounded member of the team. After Smith tended to his patient, he also returned fire.
Smith has deployed three times to Iraq and Afghanistan. "I love the military," he said. "As long as I love it, I do it."
Brig. Gen. Erik H. Torring III, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations for Army Medicine and Chief, Veterinary Corps, introduced Smith to the audience and said he "embodies the best we have to offer. Your Army Medicine is very proud."
Smith stated that he has always taken the responsibilities of his career very seriously, even as a private.
"I had good mentors," he said, who showed him what it means to be a soldier. "You have to remember that I serve not only the soldiers but their family members as well."
Smith was born at Fort Benning and is the third generation of his family with military service. He was accompanied at the dinner by his wife and his parents. "I couldn't ask for a more supportive family," he said.
As for the remainder of his military service? "Wherever it may lead," Smith said, "I'm down for the adventure. I love serving and being a servant-leader."
Despite his time at numerous duty locations, Smith considers Georgia his home state. "I'm Georgia born and Georgia bred. And when I die, I'll be Georgia dead," he said with a smile."
With regard to the award, "I don't seek a lot of recognition," Smith said revealing his humble nature. "But the award means a lot. It lets you know that people appreciate the sacrifice, hard work and dedication you put in."
Although the evening honored five specific "Angels," the evening also paid tribute to all those who act with courage in behalf of their fellow servicemembers. James C. McCloughhan, one of the Medal of Honor recipients at the gala, said "freedom has been paid for in full" by the unselfish actions of all those who serve.
Medics are often called "Doc" by their platoon. Medics have unparalleled responsibilities to care for their platoon to minimize harm, to the forward surgical team to make sure injured servicemembers arrive, and to the morale and welfare of families back at home. Medics are an indispensable component of all those who stand watch around the world.
The 13th Annual Angels of the Battlefield Awards Gala is another year away. At that time, the Military Services YMCA will once again stuff the ballroom with valor, honoring our most courageous and selfless heroes.