Military feature: Fallen Vietnam soldier honored with memorial

Courtesy photo Lloyd Smith, 22, in uniform at Christmas a few months before heading overseas to fight in Vietnam.

By Eric Butler: Freedom New Mexico

At 88, Myrtie Smith isn’t apt to just jump up and take any cross-country trip.

Given the honor about to be bestowed on her fallen hero of a son, she just might.

One incentive for making the voyage to Georgia is she’ll get a chance to see her son’s name — Lloyd E. Smith — memorialized with other members of the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade.

It’s a about a year from happening. But she would like to go.

Dedication for a memorial to the 173rd take place at the National Infantry Foundation Museum and Soldier Center in Columbus, Ga., on June 1, 2010.

“If I could get one of my children to go, I think I could go,” Myrtie Smith said.

Lloyd Smith was 22 when he died in Vietnam on June 22, 1967. He had only been in action a month when his company fell into an ambush around Dak To, near the borders of Laos and Cambodia.

Smith and 75 of his fellow U.S. soldiers were killed, overwhelmed by 800 North Vietnamese troops.

“I think it’s a great idea. The 173rd was a new unit that was put together just before Vietnam — and it’s stayed a separate unit since,” said Ronald Smith, 66, of Clovis, Lloyd’s older brother. “The unit I was in was the 187th and it was put together in Korea and then it was assigned to the 101st.

“This one has stayed by itself, which is pretty unique,” he added.

The 173rd memorial, when it’s complete, will honor its fallen not only in Vietnam but from Iraq and Afghanistan as well.

The dedication next June is part of the new Soldier Center’s grand opening ceremony. The museum’s web site notes: “This world-class tribute to Infantrymen past, present and future, is the first of its kind in the United States,” telling the stories of soldiers from the Revolutionary War to present.

Myrtie Smith, who lives in Portales, said it was no surprise to her that Lloyd followed his older brother’s footsteps, both becoming Army paratroopers.

“This one always thought he had to do what his big brother did,” recalled the boys’ mother, who also had five more children. “He was over there a month to the day…they put him on a hill where it was covered with (NVA) and he didn’t make it,”

Ronald Smith remembered the Army was perhaps the top legitimate option at the time for Lloyd, who didn’t complete his high school education in Portales.

Eventually, Lloyd came up just short in his try to make Special Forces. But his air training paved the way for his entry into the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Among the tragic elements of his death: Lloyd Smith left behind a son in Kentucky he never was able to meet.

“Of course it was devastating and back then there was six to seven hundred killed every week,” Ronald Smith said.

“He was a real good son, I can tell you that. You know, I lost that son, but I never quit talking about him,” said Myrtie Smith, who is in full support of the memorial plans for the 173rd.

“What he did when he was a kid and this thing and that,” she said. “I think we need to talk about our loved ones that have passed on.”