Unit: 75th Ranger Regiment, 3rd Battalion
Home Town: Long Valley, NJ
Died On: 10/03/1993
Cpl. James E. Smith Jr., 21, could succeed at anything. Anything he put his mind to, that is.
His mother, Caroline Smith, says her son had an independent streak. "He had to make his own choices," Caroline Smith says. "Throughout high school, we would have wished that he had paid more attention to his grades. Then, his senior year, he made the dean's list. He said that as a senior, he was entitled to be exempted from finals [for making the dean's list]. That was what he wanted--to be exempt from finals."
James Smith Jr. was an athlete in high school--football and lacrosse. He planned to go to college, like his parents wished. But that independent streak showed again when he enlisted and volunteered for the Rangers.
James Smith Sr. told his son the risks he might face. "I know my husband spoke pretty graphically to Jamie about what he was getting himself into," Caroline Smith says. "But this is what he wanted to do.".
His letters home from Somalia indicated things weren't going smoothly. "The way he put it in his letters was that it was very, very tough to know who the bad guys were," Caroline Smith says.
That's why the Smiths are wary of the Clinton administration. They feel President Clinton and his national security team lost control of the Somalia mission. James Smith Jr. was killed in the Oct. 3 firefight. He received the Bronze Star Medal for valor.
"The Army is doing an exemplary job to make sure these young men are prepared for any event," Caroline Smith says. "They're just being misused by an administration that is deploying them irresponsibly."
That belief is a troublesome one for the Smiths, not only because of their son's death, but because another son, Todd, wants to enlist after high school.
Todd Smith doesn't disagree with his parents' assessment of Clinton. "What he's wrestling with is that this is something that he always wanted to do," Caroline Smith says. "It's not that he's following in his brother's footsteps--he has his own agenda."
So do the Smiths. "As a disabled Vietnam veteran," James Smith Sr. told a May 12 Senate hearing on the Somalia operation, "I had the responsibility, the obligation to ensure that my son's generation did not suffer the fate of his father's generation."