Two Darby High School graduates, sons of Ronald (deceased) and Peggy Smith, retired from the military with a combined 52 years of active military service.
Ronald and Mark Smith graduated from Darby High School 1980 and 1981 respectively. In high school they played in sports — cross country, track, basketball and football.
Both entered Navy Reserve officer training programs, then switched to the Army midway through college.
Ronald Smith was commissioned from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a second lieutenant by his uncle, Clarence Smith, in 1985, then traveled to Oregon State University to commission his brother, Mark, a week later.
Colonel Ronald Smith served 30 years as a family physician in the Medical Corps. He performed his final service as the European Command Surgeon.
He served multiple overseas assignments in Germany and Korea, and one combat deployment to Afghanistan as the 10th Mountain Division Task Force surgeon after the attack on the twin towers, planning medical support for Tora Bora and Operation Anaconda during the initial actions of Operation Enduring Freedom.
He commanded at two clinics, a medical battalion, a combat support hospital and a medical brigade. He served four times as a command surgeon. During his service he participated in the monitoring of the Sinai Peninsula between Egypt and Israel, closure of the U.S. Cold War presence in Berlin, assisted in a POW/MIA recovery mission in Laos, and supported forces in Korea during North Korea’s sinking of the submarine Cheonan and bombing of the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong.
He retired June 30, 2019.
Mark Smith said growing up in Darby was great.
“The education and athletics helped to provide me with the qualities and background to win a four-year ROTC scholarship and ultimately retire from the Army,” he said. “It was surprising that even from the little town of Darby people could go to a big organization and make a positive impact.”
Mark said he appreciated all of the “kind and inspiring words he received from residents of Darby and the Bitterroot Valley.
“Their inspiration prompted me to send my stories, ‘Messages from Mark’ words from the war zone in 1991 while I served in Desert Storm,” he said. “These same inspirations continued to encourage me throughout my military career, despite whatever remote place the Army sent me. I believe growing up in the valley prepared me to always maintain a positive outlook wherever I went.”
Mark Smith served a total of 22 years active service plus reserve service and attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Defense Artillery. He performed his final eleven years of service as a professor at the United States Military Academy, West Point.
He initially served in Buedingen, Germany protecting the Fulda Gap during the last years of the Cold War. After deactivating his first unit, he was reassigned as a platoon leader to the 5-3 ADA to provide short range air defense protection to the 3rd Armored Division Main Headquarters (“Spearhead”) as a part of the VII Corps sweep from Saudi Arabia into the western flank of Saddam Hussein’s forces in Iraq.
His “war time diary” to the Ravalli Republic during the sweep became local news during Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
He returned to Germany as the Staff Officer for German-American relations, then entered the Reserves. Following the awarding of a doctoral degree in Wildlife Science from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, he returned to active service, eventually assigned back to Germany in the Dutch-German-American Extended Air Defense Task Force in Giessen, then to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Southern Regional Headquarters in Naples, Italy, where he was involved in the deployment of the European Union Force and NATO’s Over-The-Horizon-Force into Kosovo, and from where he again deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, as a NATO liaison officer to the Multi-National Corps – Iraq just as control and sovereignty of Iraq was handed over from the United States to an interim Iraqi government. His next assignment was instructor at the United States Military Academy, West Point. His older brother, Ronald, who had also commissioned him, performed his retirement ceremony. Mark retired Sept. 30, 2017.
Mark (wife Laura Aguirre) and Ronald (wife Connie Ramich) are the sons of Ronald (deceased) and Peggy Smith of Darby. Sister Marie Smith, works fund-raising for the St. Labre Indian School in Ashland, Montana.
Ron Smith said he attributes his successful military career to the neighbors, teachers, and community of Darby and the Bitterroot.
“The Montanans I met tended to fare well in the military environment, and could be trusted to tell the straight truth, work hard, and enjoy the simple pleasures,” he said. “In traveling through 37 countries and working with three times that many nations, none can equal the formative experiences of growing up in Western Montana. It is always great to come home. We are blessed indeed.”
The Smith family has been residents of Montana and Darby since 1970, 50 years.