Lee Smith was born in Florida. Around Christmas time in 1950 he was thinking about a present for Christmas from Santa, but instead he received a card which read “Christmas Greetings, Mr. Smith. You will report on or before 27 DEC, 1950.” Yes, he was being drafted by the U.S. Army. Shortly after this was another card telling Lee to report instead on 20 MAR 1951 to Fort Jackson, SC, which he did. Lee went to Fort Leonard Wood, MO, for basic training and then in October 1951, he was sent to Korea. At that time, they had a point system going and in 1953 Lee almost had enough points to go home. But when the truce was signed in 1953, the Army made Korea a tour of 18 months, so Lee was extended another year. He left Korea in 1954 and went back to Fort Leonard Wood. Shortly after, Lee was sent to Germany and then came back to Fort Jackson. After reenlisting, he was sent to Fort Leonard Wood. After tours in Germany, Fort Campbell, KY, Fort Rucker, AL, and Fort Bragg, NC, Lee was sent to Vietnam in 1966. He was supposed to be sent back to Germany but didn’t want to go and was able to stay in Vietnam for 2 ½ years. He then ended up back in Fort Leonard Wood, where he was an instructor until his retirement came up. It was at this time, Lee was put in a TDRI Status Leave. After two more years, Lee decided to retire from the military in 1973.
After retiring, Lee bought a house at Ft. Leonard Wood. He also bought a tractor, trailer and 18 wheeler. After 2 ½ years on the road, Lee retired again. He then went to school for carpentry, electric wiring and air conditioning. He did well, and didn’t need a full time job anymore because his dependent had left home, so it was just Lee and his dogs. So from then on he did small jobs, which included driving a taxi! That was just what his doctor had prescribed. But now Congress had come up with the idea of reducing retirement pensions and cutting medical privileges. This put a little fright into Lee, so he decided to go to school for Tool Maintenance with the Foley Manufacturing Co., who made a particular machine for his type of work, sharpening tools. After one week, Lee bought the machine, came home and started his own business. He even got a contract with the Army and did very well. He tried to spread out a bit and bought a trailer court, which kept him busy for about 6 years. He sold it and went to Las Vegas, but didn’t care for it and left there in a hurry. So, Lee came back home and devoted all of his time to the DAV. He worked his way up to Commander of Chapter #49 in Waynesville, MO. The nearest VA Hospital was 100 miles away and they could not provide transportation for the Veterans, but Lee was able to get a van from another source to take the Veterans back and forth to the hospital. To this day, some 10 years later, that van (or a car) is still running every day. Lee came to AFRH-W in 2015, because he felt it was a trusted place that will always be there for him.