Sunday, April 22, 2018
News Roundup

World War II veteran gets his Bronze Star and other medals 67 years after his discharge

PALM HARBOR — U.S. Army Cpl. Robert Smiddy was discharged in 1946.

Friday, he finally got the medals he earned for his service — 67 years after he was discharged. Among those medals was a Bronze Star, awarded for heroic or meritorious achievement not involving aerial flight.

Smiddy, 89, received the medals in a surprise ceremony arranged by his children and U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor.

"If I had known this was happening, I would've worn a suit and tie," Smiddy said as he posed for pictures with his wife, Blanche, 87, their three children — Tom, Bob and Carol — and the congressman.

Smiddy said he recalled seeing on his discharge papers after the war that he had earned the Bronze Star, but "I thought it was a mistake," so he ignored it.

"I thought it was for people who did something heroic and unusual," he said.

But Gen. George C. Marshall, the Army chief of staff during World War II, awarded the Bronze Star for those in non-aerial combat and whose ranks suffered heavy casualties. That included Smiddy, whose unit, the 97th Infantry Division, took part in heavy fighting and, according to the Army's website, suffered 1,318 casualties.

"I feel unworthy," Smiddy said after receiving the Bronze Star and five other service medals Friday.

His wife replied, "He's quite a humble man."

• • •

A year ago doctors diagnosed Smiddy with Stage 4 bladder cancer. As he began to make end-of-life plans, he knew he wanted to be buried in the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell. But he needed the discharge papers he had lost years ago.

His three children, who all live in Palm Harbor, requested the papers in May. When they received the documents soon after, Smiddy's son Tom, 48, raised an eyebrow at the list of six medals his father should have received.

He began scheming with his brother and sister to figure out how to present the medals to their father. They contacted Bilirakis, who is vice chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

Bilirakis has presented medals to many local veterans in the past few years and was going to be in his district this week. The next time he would be in Palm Harbor would be August. No one wanted to wait another month.

Smiddy was led to believe he would be meeting a caseworker Friday at Bilirakis' office to review his discharge papers. The Smiddy children didn't tell their dad or their mom about the real reason for the visit.

His family trickled into the office on Friday afternoon and confessed. Soon after, Bilirakis walked in with a display of six medals: the Bronze Star, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal as well as a Combat Infantry Badge.

Smiddy saw heavy fighting during the war, and said he had two weapons to defend himself as German bullets flew: his gun and prayer.

He said he promised God he would serve him, and he did. After the war he became a minister, serving churches in various states for 50 years.

In December, the Smiddys will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary. They were married two months before he enlisted.

Their three children lived in Palm Harbor before their parents did. The Smiddys moved here from Virginia after their first grandchild was born in 2002.

Bilirakis said that of all the veterans he has presented medals to, 67 years was the longest time he can remember a veteran having to wait.

It was also the first time he surprised one.

"He's a very special individual," Bilirakis said. "He did a lot of work. He deserves it."

Diedra Rodriguez can be reached at (727) 445-4154 or [email protected] To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

Comments
4 dead in Nashville Waffle House shooting; suspect sought

4 dead in Nashville Waffle House shooting; suspect sought

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Four people were killed in a shooting at a Waffle House restaurant in Tennessee early Sunday, according to police, who credited a bystander with saving many lives by wresting a weapon away from the gunman. The Metropolitan N...
Updated: 1 hour ago
District softball schedules for Tampa Bay

District softball schedules for Tampa Bay

Class 9A-8 (higher seed hosts)Tuesday: No. 3 Alonso at No. 2 Palm Harbor University, 4; No. 4 Sarasota Riverview at No. 1 Newsome, 7Thursday: Final, 4 or 7 (depending on who hosts)Class 8A-4 at Strawberry Crest Tuesday: No. 1 Wharton vs. No. 4 Wiregr...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Teen killed in crash remembered as

Teen killed in crash remembered as "always smiling and laughing"

WEEKI WACHEE — Seth Leathers was on his way to play basketball at his church when he was killed Wednesday in a car crash on U.S. 19 in Spring Hill, according to family friend Laurie Pike.Leathers, 16, was the passenger in a car driven by his friend G...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays thoughts are with ex-teammate Danny Farquhar

Rays thoughts are with ex-teammate Danny Farquhar

Members of the Rays organization sent their thoughts and prayers to former teammate Danny Farquhar, who was hospitalized Saturday night in Chicago in stable but critical condition after suffering a brain hemorrhage caused by a ruptured aneurysm.Farqu...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Baseball: Bulls edge Knights to even series

Baseball: Bulls edge Knights to even series

After a two-hour weather delay Saturday evening at USF, the remote local threat of lightning finally dissipated.The postseason intensity never did.For the second consecutive night, the UCF-USF baseball series delivered, this time with the Bulls (25-1...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Perspective: The Heartland to Headwaters Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition finds frustration and fear seeking a safe a path for wildlife across Interstate 4

Perspective: The Heartland to Headwaters Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition finds frustration and fear seeking a safe a path for wildlife across Interstate 4

The original Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition in 2012 was inspired by the how the Florida black bear roamed — and the space it needed to do so successfully. In 2010, expedition team member Joe Guthrie conducted research through the University of ...
Published: 04/22/18
Athletics’ Sean Manaea no-hits Red Sox

Athletics’ Sean Manaea no-hits Red Sox

OAKLAND, Calif. – Sean Manaea watched as Marcus Semien fired a ball from short to second baseman Jed Lowrie, turned around, and jumped into the arms of catcher Jonathan Lucroy. History was made at the Coliseum.Manaea no-hit the Red Sox on ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Maple Leafs force Game 6 with Bruins

Maple Leafs force Game 6 with Bruins

BOSTON — Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk scored 1:19 apart in the second period, and then the Maple Leafs killed off a 5-on-3 and three more power plays in a row to beat the Bruins 4-3 in Game 5 on Saturday night and avoid playoff eliminatio...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays’ 10-1 Saturday win over Twins

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays’ 10-1 Saturday win over Twins

* Is it time to take the leap and believe this is the real Blake Snell? He talked a good game this spring and pitched well in his debut, but that rough second outing raised old doubts. But a good outing in Chicago and two dominant ones on the homesta...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

When the Rays, in the opening weekend of their 20th anniversary celebration season, brought back and honored the inaugural 1998 Devil Rays squad, it got us thinking unexpected thoughts, such as which was a better team:The first one, or the current on...
Published: 04/21/18