EIGHT MILE, AL, US
U. S. Air Force
SSGT, 66TH RESCUE SQD, NELLIS AFB, NV
06/09/2010, NEAR FOB JACKSON, AFGHANISTAN
David Cazzie Smith was the baby of the family, the youngest of five. One sister is in the Coast Guard, and a brother is a Navy veteran. Smith’s maternal grandfather served with the Army’s Military Police in World War II. Hardee depicted her son as quietly intellectual, a Satsuma High graduate who took a year off after school before making his decision to join the Air Force.
“He was a computer nerd,” Hardee said. “Anything electronic, he could take it apart and put it back together.” He enjoyed pranks with his brothers and sisters, too. Hardee laughed between her tears, reminiscing about the time her children got into a paint ball fight. “We’re a close family,” she said of her four surviving children and 10 grandchildren. Most live near one another in north Mobile County.
Her late husband, George Melvin Hardee, was a stepfather to Smith, she said. That her son had gone into rescue missions made sense to her. “He was a loyal friend,” she said, remembering how David, in grade school, had stood up for a buddy who was made fun of by other kids for having learning disabilities.
She recalled his “dry humor” and his enjoyment of funny movies and stand-up comedy.
He received five Air Medals and an Air Force Achievement Medal, according to Nellis Air Force Base, but Hardee said her son never boasted. On his trips home to Eight Mile, he relaxed in civilian clothes, “laid back,” said his brother, Randell. He talked little about the war. “When he put on his uniform again,” said his brother, “he was Staff Sergeant David Smith.”
He had plans to go to college after leaving the military in another year, his mother said, and buy a house with the money that he had saved in the Air Force. And he had just gotten engaged.
He was “a hero,” Hardee said, a young patriot who had complex feelings about Afghanistan — as does she — but he said to her, “I’m needed in this war.” She does not want the public to forget the sacrifices of her son and of all the men and women in the armed services.
Her son, Hardee said, was concerned about her feelings and wanted to shield her from pain and worry. He urged her not even to follow accounts of the war.
“He told me, ‘Mama, don’t listen to the news. Don’t worry until you see blue uniforms knocking on your door.'”