AVON LAKE – Marine Lance Cpl. Colin Smith was welcomed home during a Veterans Day ceremony Monday at Learwood Middle School in Avon Lake.
Smith, 20, a 2005 graduate of Avon Lake High School, was shot through the head by a sniper on Oct. 30, 2006, during a mission in Karma, a city near Fallujah. He spent 10 months at trauma centers in Germany, Maryland and Virginia.
The details of his shooting and the aftermath were reported in the New York Times, which had a reporter traveling with the platoon. The platoon had been searching several houses, where they found five Kalashnikov assault rifles and bomb components and were getting back into their vehicles when the gunshot rang out.
Smith, who was peering out of the first vehicle`s gun turret, was struck by an armor-piercing bullet, according to the article.
During the ceremony Monday, which WKYC-TV Channel 3 attended and videotaped – the video is posted at www.WKYC.com – Smith, dressed in a red T-shirt emblazoned with the word Marines and wearing a protective helmet, was the guest of honor and appeared alongside his father, Robert Smith.
Robert Smith helped walk his son to the podium, where he instructed him to briefly remove his helmet to show the students the damage inflicted by the bullet.
Colin Smith overcame a grim prognosis, his father told the students, and has fought his way back through a grueling rehabilitation regimen consisting of 12-to-16-hour days.
Students and veterans alike listened quietly as Robert Smith described what it was like seeing young soldiers, day-after-day, trying to recover with amputated limbs and brain injuries.
“It`s all we ever saw,” he said. “But I learned that not one of them ever had a regret, and the reason that is is because of people like yourselves thanking them.”
Colin Smith smiled and looked intently at his father. Colin Smith didn`t address the students himself, but he can be seen saying Semper Fi to another Marine at the ceremony.
Robert Smith said he was proud of his son`s service, and asked those in attendance to reflect on the sacrifice of all U.S. veterans.
“When you honor veterans, remember you`re honoring yourselves,” he said.