BRYANT, Ark. – Ralph Smith, 96, of Bryant can recall memories from his time in service from more than 75 years ago. Some are good, some are bad, but they all come with deep pride for the country he served.
Ralph joined the Marines in 1943. He was an aircraft mechanic in World War 2 and was considered missing in action during the Korean War.
He suffered frostbite in his hands and feet, as well as a gunshot wound. Despite all this, he says he only paid a small price.
“I didn’t get damaged, but there’s a lot of them that were,” Smith said.
Stranded behind enemy lines, Smith remembers being rescued by two pilots, a man named Bill and another from Mississippi named Jesse.
“Here come them two,” Smith said. “They go down and spray ’em, bomb ’em. Drop napalm bombs.”
The memory is painful, though. Smith says Jesse’s plane lost too much oil pressure. He died saving Ralph and his men.
“And Jesse us told Bill, when you get back, tell my wife I love her,” Smith said.
Ralph’s been married to his wife, Wanda, for 72 years.
“Well, I come out ahead,” Smith said. “She does more for me than I can do for her.”
Smith says he wishes other veterans had the kind of support she gives to him.
His advice to other veterans is simple.
“Trust in the Lord,” he said.
And so is the feeling he gets on this day.
“Pride,” Smith said.
It’s a story of service that started 78 years ago. A living hero making Arkansas proud.
A fun fact about Ralph: after his time in the service, he worked for radio and tv stations all around Arkansas. but it was at KARK TV where he spent many years as an engineer before retiring.
Ralph, thank you for your service.