Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Army sergeant interrogated by pen pals

SPRING HILL — Students in speech therapist Karen DiCristofalo's class had been sending pictures and letters to Army Staff Sgt. Paul Smith during the school year.

Smith, stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, recently was able to answer their questions — in person.

Smith, 30, is DiCristofalo's son-in-law. He was in town for the holidays and visited Deltona Elementary School with his wife, Cara Jill Smith, 23, and their 5-month-old son, Dominic.

The visit, DiCristofalo said, "was the perfect opportunity for him to come in and answer questions.''

DiCristofalo serves about 105 students and had them writing to Smith "to thank him for all he does for our country," she said. She teaches language development: vocabulary, comprehension, speech sounds, responding to questions and grammar.

The students flowed through the room, staying to see Smith for about 20 minutes for each group. Smith thanked them for their correspondence and encouraged them to ask questions.

• • •

"Have you ever been in a tank?" "No. I really want to."

"How's it like being in the Army?" "I love the Army. It's hard, though, sometimes."

"When was your last fight?" "I was in Afghanistan two years ago."

"What do you do?" "I work on computers and make sure everyone gets their records updated and gets paid."

"Have you ever been in a plane?" "Lots of planes and lots of helicopters."

"Ever jump off one?" "No, but that's something I want to do."

Smith's family has a history of military service. "I wanted to go be part of something bigger than myself. I like to be in something when you can actually see progress," he said.

• • •

More questions.

"Why do you protect our country?" "Because somebody has to do it and I wanted to do it."

"Why can't you just put the bad people in jail?" "The bad people, we try to ask them what they're doing. We're trying to change that. We tell the bad people to change and be good."

"Do you get Christmas up there?" "Yes. Santa comes everywhere."

"Do you get a vacation for Halloween?" "Sometimes."

"Do you usually use an MP 43 (assault rifle)?" "I don't use it, but other people do."

• • •

For Veterans Day, DiCristofalo, 50, had her students draw pictures and send notes to Smith. He shared them with other soldiers.

Third-grader Caitlin Zarcone, 9, explained why she thought Sgt. Smith came to her school and what he does in the Army. "To say thank you about the pictures," she said. His job is to "fight other people to protect our country."

• • •

And more questions.

"How fast can you load your gun?" "I'd say within 10 seconds."

"Have you ever fired a Desert Eagle (gas-operated semiautomatic pistol)?" "I have never fired a Desert Eagle."

"Have you ever saved a princess?" "No," Smith said. "I'm not a Super Mario Brother."

Army sergeant interrogated by pen pals 01/13/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 13, 2010 3:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival brings Major Lazer, safety upgrades to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa


    Somewhere beyond the barricades and mountainous LED stages of the Sunset Music Festival, there had to be worry. There had to thousands of parents in parking lots and empty kitchens, anxiously distracting their minds, every now and then checking their phones.

    Major Lazer headlined the Sunset Music Festival on May 27, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
  2. 24-year-old man charged with murder in shooting at Andrea Cove Motel

    LARGO — Pinellas sheriff's officers arrested a 24-year-old transient man Saturday in connection with a homicide at the Andrea Cove Motel in unincorporated Largo.

  3. Photo gallery: Calvary Christian rolls to state title


    View a gallery of images from Calvary Christian's defeat of Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers for the Class 4A title.

    Calvary Christian players circle up on the field before the FHSAA class 4A baseball championship against Pensacola Catholic on Friday May 27, 2017 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Calvary scored 6 runs in the first inning, and had 7 hits.
  4. Two girls found safe after being reported missing in New Port Richey

    UPDATE: Both girls were found safe Saturday night, police said.

  5. IT failure blamed for British Airways cancellations (w/video)


    LONDON — British Airways canceled all flights from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Saturday as a global IT failure upended the travel plans of tens of thousands of people on a busy U.K. holiday weekend.

    Passengers wait at a British Airways check-in desk after the airport suffered an IT systems failure Saturday at London''s Gatwick Airport. [Associated Press]