11/09/08 — Veteran: Also honor county's new roster of heroes

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Veteran: Also honor county's new roster of heroes

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 9, 2008 9:27 AM


Noggie Smith, a World War II veteran, talks about his experiences as a military policeman stationed in Europe.

Noggie Smith can't walk quite like he could before a bomb blast from a downed plane ended his service in World War II.

The physical strength he possessed as a boy working farms in Wayne County has diminished with age.

And these days, he is confined, mostly, to an electric wheelchair.

He likely won't be able to stand along Center Street with his comrades at Tuesday's Veterans Day parade.

But the 86-year-old said there is little he would change about his life, "if I could do it all over again."

The draft, the training, the long boat ride to Liverpool -- even that nearly fatal blow to the hip -- all worth it, he says.

After all, he knows there are not many people still living who can say they fought in what he considers one of the great wars.

Schools and local government buildings will be closed Tuesday as Wayne County residents will spend the day honoring Smith and other veterans for their service.

Thousands are expected to attend the main event, an 11 a.m. parade in downtown Goldsboro.

But the day is about more than recognizing aging generations of war fighters, Smith said.

Those currently serving Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world are "just as important."

"I appreciate them and feel for them, too," Smith said. "Back when I was their age, I know I wasn't looking forward to getting on that battleship. I was scared to death. I know what it feels like when you don't know what to expect."

Airmen from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base have been -- and will likely continue to be -- deployed to both present war theaters.

Maybe that is why 4th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Mark Kelly was chosen as Grand Marshall for this year's parade and why several units from the base are expected to participate.

Each is a future Noggie Smith.

Sure, they won't ever be able to exchange salutes with Gen. George Patton, as Smith did shortly before the injury that sent him home from Europe.

None will wear the World War II Victory Medal.

But their sacrifices, Smith says, are just as great.

And like the retired military policeman, they, too, he says, will one day need the support of their community -- years from now, long after the wear and tear that comes with war and duty has set in.

He hopes that this community will start supporting the new heroes -- along with remembering the old ones -- this Tuesday.