Being in the military is in the family for retired Marine and Alexander City native Billy Smith.
Smith’s brother is also a retired Marine, his father is a retired Air Force veteran and he has relatives who fought in World War I and the Civil War.
Smith’s wife Theresa is the daughter of a veteran and their daughter Katelyn wanted to join the military before injuries prevented her from entering the service.
When choosing his path after graduating from Benjamin Russell in 1983, Smith knew what he was going to do.
“My dad told me it was either that or go to college and I said, ‘I don’t want to go to school. I’m done with school. I want to get out of high school,’” Smith said.
Smith enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in December 1983 and worked in supply and logistics.
“As soon as I picked up sergeant, I was a supply chief,” Smith said. “I was in charge of multimillion-dollar accounts.”
During his 26-year military career, Smith has visited 29 countries around the world. Smith served on Okinawa and various stations in North Carolina, South Carolina, Miami and Peru.
Smith was part of some of the annual Operation Team Spirit exercises and was a member of the Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), which went to the Mediterranean Sea region. Smith deployed to Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004 and 2005.
Smith said he enjoyed the MEU unit as part of special operations.
“Once we got qualified with that, it authorized us to deploy to the Mediterranean and then we went around, did little operations and field ops with other countries and trained with them,” Smith said. “When we went to Kuwait it was because that’s when Saddam Hussein was in power. He was headed back toward Kuwait until we came into the Persian Gulf and that pretty much turned him around.”
After returning from Iraq in 2005, Smith spent 5½ years in North Carolina. He medically retired in March 2010 as a master sergeant.
Smith said his wife Theresa was the reason he stayed in the Marine Corps for 26 years because she was a key volunteer for his unit’s wives and would help them while their husbands were deployed.
“She was a big part of everything,” Smith said. “I was deployed all the time and she held everything together on the home front … I might have been getting shot at but she was having to deal with all of the complaining.”
The Smiths moved back to Alexander City to take care of their parents after he retired and he said it was hard readapting to civilian life.
“It’s really hard especially when you’re used to being in charge and you say stuff, it happens, no questions asked,” Smith said. “In the civilian world it doesn’t work that way; you tell someone to do something, they got 20 questions of why you want them to do it.”
Smith is a member of the Alexander City American Legion.