"It's not how a person dies that makes them a hero, but rather how they live."
A bagpiper played a melancholy tune yesterday as people in the large crowd dabbed away tears for the 26-year-old. Smith, of nearby Ostrea Lake, who died last April 17 in friendly fire that killed four Canadian soldiers, including two Nova Scotians, and wounded eight more during a live-fire exercise near their Kandahar base.
A flood of emotions come back,his father, Lloyd Smith, said after the ceremony.
But it's also a great honour for our son to be among such distinguished people. I think every man on that plaque deserves our undying loyalty, because they paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Many of the young soldier's relatives and friends attended the event, held a stone's throw from two schools Nathan Smith attended as a boy. He was a friend to everybody, his father said. I don't know if he ever had an enemy in this world, and I'm sure he won't have any in the next. Lloyd Smith said he has shed many tears in the past two weeks watching the war in Iraq unfold.
I look at it, obviously, with a new set of eyes because of what happened to our son,he said. But I can tell you my heart goes out to each and every one of those family members on both sides of that conflict who lost a loved one. Because war is not nice, and it takes away the best, the youngest and the brightest.
SOURCE; THE DAILY NEWS, APRIL 10, 2003
Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - The Halifax Herald Limited
NEW ORLEANS - The Illinois National Guard pilot who mistakenly bombed Canadian troops in Afghanistan, killing four and wounding eight, lost his last U.S. air force appeal Tuesday.
The commander of Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia upheld the punishment ordered last month for Maj. Harry Schmidt: a severe reprimand and loss of a month's pay. Schmidt, 39, who was found guilty of dereliction of duty, also has agreed that he will never fly U.S. air force jets again, although he remains in the National Guard.
Schmidt was on a mission in April 2002 when he dropped the bomb on the Canadians. He said he mistook their gunfire for an attack from Taliban fighters and argued that his superiors never told him that the Canadians would be conducting live-fire exercises near Kandahar airport.
Two Nova Scotians, Pte. Ricky Green of Mill Cove and Pte. Nathan Smith of Ostrea Lake, died in the attack.
They and the other two soldiers killed, Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer and Sgt. Marc Leger, were the first Canadians to die in combat since the Korean War. Eight other Canadians were wounded.
"It does bring closure, some form of closure, because now we can go on with our lives," said Lloyd Smith, father of Nathan Smith, speaking Tuesday from his home in Tatamagouche, N.S.
"We'll never forget - and obviously memories will always be with us, and we'll never forget what happened - but now we'll be able to go on with our lives and try to put our lives back to some level of normalcy in dealing with our other family members that are left," he added.
"Enough has been said and enough has been done and the rulings, in our opinion, are suitable and adequate."
In Tuesday's ruling, Gen. Hal Hornburg did not write an opinion; he simply check-marked "appeal denied" after reviewing evidence and Schmidt's appeal memo, said Capt. Bernadette Dozier, spokesperson for Langley Air Combat Command.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice allows a single appeal.
"Gen. Hornburg's decision brings nonjudicial punishment proceedings on this issue to a close," an air force statement said.
However, it isn't over. Attorney Charles Gittins said he could ask the Air Force Board for the Correction of Military Record to clear the pilot's name or take the case before the Court of Federal Claims to seek reimbursement for the withheld wages.
"A coalition of Harry's lawyers will make a decision," he said.
He said Schmidt is on vacation, "and I'm not disturbing him with this. . . . I'm sure I'll hear from him when he reads about it in the paper."
Gittins said the decision was "not unexpected. The one thing that was unexpected was it took them this long to perform no review and to come up with a decision that was all but decided" before the appeal was made.
Lt.-Gen. Bruce Carlson, who found Schmidt guilty of dereliction of duty last month after a hearing at Barksdale Air Force Base in northwestern Louisiana, had refused to reconsider his ruling.
His letter of reprimand said Schmidt acted shamefully and showed "arrogance and a lack of flight discipline" in the April 17, 2002, bombing.
Mary-Anne Perry, mother of Brett Perry who was injured in the attack, said she was very pleased that Schmidt's appeal was denied but she predicted he will press on, even though his punishment wasn't very severe.
"He's going to keep burying himself. All he's doing is just digging himself in deeper. All anyone wants is for him to be accountable."
She said the Canadian and U.S. investigations into the incident were thorough and done professionally.
"He (Schmidt) made a mistake - admit it, that's it."
Perry, now 27, is stationed in Winnipeg. His mother said he plans to get married in October.
"Hopefully this (denial of Schmidt's appeal) will bring a little bit of peace to some of the families," she said.
Schmidt had transferred to the Illinois Air National Guard in 2000 after a decorated career as a U.S. navy pilot and an instructor at the navy's Top Gun fighter pilot school.
Schmidt originally was charged with manslaughter and aggravated assault, but those were reduced last year to dereliction of duty.
The air force announced June 25 that it had decided not to court-martial Schmidt, which could have brought up to six months in prison, but to move the charges to a nonjudicial forum overseen by the general. The administrative sentences did not include a prison term.
(edited text from THE MAIL STAR, NOV. 10, 2003)
Tatamagouche - A mother's memories of a little boy playing with toy soldiers and running through woods pretending to evade the enemy flash through Charlotte Smith's mind.
"He wanted to be a soldier from the time he was small," Canada's 2003 Silver Cross Mother said of her late son, Pte. Nathan Smith. "He loved it."
Ms. Smith, who still has those toy soldiers, will be thinking about her son and his military accomplishments on Nov. 11 at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, where she will lay a wreath on behalf of mothers who have lost sons and daughters in military or merchant navy service. "It'll be an emotional day," she said before leaving for Ontario with her husband Lloyd, Pte. Smith's father.
"I just hope I don't have to do any speeches," said the quiet and thoughtful woman, who doesn't relish being in the limelight but has talked openly about her son's life and death.
Ms. Smith's thoughts sometimes wander to other mothers and how they coped decades ago when news from foreign countries was sporadic and parents waited weeks and sometimes months for word about their children. In contrast, she knew within hours that her 26-year-old son had been killed in Afghanistan in April 2002. Three other soldiers from his unit, the 3rd Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry of Edmonton, also died at the same time. The four were killed when an American F-16 pilot dropped a 250-kilogram bomb on the soldiers despite orders to wait until a check could be done to see if coalition troops were in the area.
"It never dawned on me anything would ever happen to him," said Ms. Smith, who so often got caught up in her son's infectious enthusiasm for life and his military career.
"Sometimes I still think he's just away," she said, sitting in her Tatamagouche home where every day is Remembrance Day. Walls are covered with framed photographs and citations documenting Pte. Smith's all-too-short military career. The family has an outdoor memorial of flags, plaques and benches where people can sit and pay their respects. Her Silver Cross is among her most prized possessions.
"This means a lot to me," she said, holding the small medal that bears Nathan's name and tag number on the back. "He loved it ... the military. He accomplished everything he wanted to do."
Ms. Smith was Nova Scotia's Silver Cross Mother last year.
The Smiths, who moved to Tatamagouche in 1999, left Nova Scotia on Sunday and will return home on Wednesday. The couple raised Nathan and their daughter, in Ostrea Lake and Porters Lake.
He was hit by a U.S. National Guard F-16 fighter-bomber, which dropped one or two 250-kilogram, laser-guided bombs at about 1:55 a.m. Thursday, April 18, 2002. in Afghanistan.
'I wanted to write about Nathan so people would always remember him'
Tatamagouche - A little more than a year ago, above the hum of chatty teens on her school bus, Nora Heighton heard on the radio that four Canadian soldiers had been killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan.
The 13-year-old never imagined the news clip would have such personal meaning, that she actually knew and admired one of those soldiers, Pte. Nathan Smith.
Now the teen's essay about that fateful day last April 18 - and the sadness, anger and acceptance she's felt since then - have earned her a national Royal Canadian Legion essay award.
"I wanted to write about Nathan so people would always remember him," she said Sunday. "He was a special person who made a big sacrifice for his country."
Nora met Pte. Smith after his parents, Lloyd and Charlotte Smith, moved in next to her Tatamagouche home four years ago. Pte. Smith, 26, a native of Ostrea Lake, and three others were killed during a training exercise near Kandahar when an American plane dropped a bomb on their location.
The other victims were Pte. Richard Green of Mill Cove, Sgt. Marc Leger of Lancaster, Ont., and Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer of Montreal.
The Smith and Heighton families have become close over the years, and they shared many special and emotional moments after the private's death.
"I'm glad they moved here and that I got to know them and Nathan," Nora said. "They raised a great son."
Wayne Mingo, poppy campaign chairman at the Tatamagouche legion, said everyone at Branch 64 is proud of the accomplishments of the young writer, who first won at the local and provincial levels.
"The literary and poster contest is a great way for young students to express their views on how Canadian soldiers have sacrificed their lives in times of conflict," Mr. Mingo said.
"When the judging was held at our legion, Nora's essay stood out above the rest because she was writing about a friend and neighbour who died in defence of our country."
Nora, the daughter of Peter and Barbara Heighton, is a Grade 8 student at North Colchester High School in Tatamagouche. She will get $200 for her win, a portion of which she'll donate to the Boys and Girls Club because Pte. Smith once told her he wanted to volunteer for the organization when he returned home.
"His spirit and his bravery will live on in our hearts forever," the writer said.
My first reaction was anger toward the pilots and the Americans in general.
Nathan was a wonderful person in every way. He was humorous, smart and extremely brave. He never thought he was putting himself in danger by fighting for our country. He always thought of our country's safety and took pride in being Canadian.
After Nathan's death, I began to realize just how important the military is.
It was tragic that Nathan had to die for something that could have been prevented, like friendly fire. But Nathan probably would have wanted to die for his country. He is a hero in every respect. I look up to him. He shall never be forgotten.
He is survived by his fiancé and long-time companion, Jodi Carter, Edmonton, Alta., formerly of Ostrea Lake; parents, Lloyd and Charlotte Smith, Tatamagouche, formerly of Ostrea Lake; sister, Karen Sutherland; brother-in-law, Ron Sutherland; niece and godchild, Courtney Rahne Sutherland, Dartmouth; many aunts, uncles and cousins. He is also survived by his extended family, the men and women of the PPCLI, whom he often openly expressed his love for. The support he got from all the members of the PPCLI was a large part of the reason he loved his job so much. Our prayers and thoughts are with the PPCLI and other family members of those affected by the conflict in Afghanistan as we all mourn our losses. They are soldiers of God's army now and in every sense of the word our HERO's!
Visitation will be held from 7-9 p.m. today and 2-4, 7-9 p.m. Tuesday, April 23, in Atlantic Funeral Home, 771 Main St., Dartmouth. A military funeral service will take place at 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 24, in St. Luke's Anglican Church, Veterans Avenue, Dartmouth, Rev. Carolyn Tomlin and LCdr. Robert Humble officiating. As requested by Nathan, cremation to follow. Family flowers only. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Nathan's memory to Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
SOURCE; The Mail Star, April 22, 2002