Capt. Donald Smith: Finding plan B
By Annette P. Gomes, Warrior Care and Transition

ARLINGTON, Va. - U.S. Army Capt. Donald Smith lives his life based on three guiding principles - honor, service and family. Those three principles, and a family legacy of service, led him to choose a career in the military.

"I have a brother who retired from the Army and several uncles, aunts and cousins who served in the military. I felt I had an obligation to serve," Smith said. "I was the first [in my family] to be an officer. I put myself through college because I always wanted to make my grandmother proud and exceed expectations people had for me. My grandmother is my superhero and my dad is my hero," said Smith.

In 1986, Smith enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in an effort to pursue his life-long dream of becoming a Marine. While in the Marine Corps, shortly after Operation Desert Storm, Smith began to see a decline in his field of avionics. An overpopulation of E-5s and above was preventing him from making his next rank and therefore he was not able to reenlist.

However Smith, armed with heavy ambition to continue serving his country following the September 11th attacks, found a plan B.

"After the September 11th attacks, I knew I had to serve in some capacity. I looked into other branches, but the Army National Guard gave me the best option," said Smith.

In 2016, the former military police officer and logistician found himself at a crossroads after suffering a leg injury during an Army physical fitness test.

"I could have lost my leg from the injury. The only thing I remember from that day is waking up in a dark emergency room with strangers pulling on me. My injury was life altering, but I'm still thankful and give special thanks to the team (of Soldiers) that rushed me to the emergency room," Smith said. "I possess a special passion for running, because it's my stress reliever and after the injury I was told I would never run again," Smith said. "I have run more than 11 marathons with four of those being The Marine Corps Marathon. Coming to grips with not being able to ever run again was very detrimental to my physical, mental and emotional health."

While healing at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, Smith was given a new lifeline - an introduction to the Operation Warfighter Program, sponsored by the Department of Defense. OWF provides opportunities for wounded, ill, and injured service members to participate in internships with federal agencies during their rehabilitation process. Smith's experience with OWF would reignite his passion for computers.

"I started in the OWF program because of my need to continue to serve in some capacity within the government; my need to be part of something this important was strong," Smith said. As a cybersecurity specialist, I knew I could take part in catching those who would do [The United States of America] harm or try to disrupt our way of life."

This opportunity would lead to a six month internship with the U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms Program. During his time there, Smith helped other wounded, ill and injured Soldiers secure permanent and internship positions while assisting with a host of administrative tasks and benefits.
"This internship has been a glimmer of hope for my future. You have to serve and not sit on the sidelines. I am always open to helping others. No appointment necessary."

For more information on OWF visit http://warriorcare.dodlive.mil/carecoordination/operation-warfighter