Darby Staff Veteran

How Darby Staff is Leading The Way

Darby Staff Veteran

Grace Lopez, Reporter

Don Smith is a teacher at Darby Junior High School. He teaches 8th grade social studies, 9th grade economics, and 9th grade civics. What most people don’t know about is his time in the Army.

Smith enlisted into the Army when he was only 17 years old, at which time he needed a parent’s written signature to join. He was on active duty for a total of 20 years. He says his time there was “a combination of boredom, worry, fear, loneliness, adventure, exhilaration, and terror.” He also said that the time there was challenging, which for him, was the reward.

“I come from a family that has a proud history of service,” he answered when asked if he had any family members in the service. “My grandfather served as an artilleryman during WWI in France. My father fought in WWII in the Pacific,the Korean War, and two tours in Vietnam. I have six uncles and two aunts who served during WWII. My brother, my son and step-daughter served. I have several nephews who also served.”

Then as a follow-up, he stated, “I have seven family members buried in the National Cemetery here in Fort Smith, including my father and brother.”

“The hardest part of being in the service was the long periods spent away from friends, family, and loved ones. It cost me two broken marriages and separation from my children.” After that, he said was not as difficult leaving the service, after his 20 years.

But how did he make the transition from Army veteran to teacher? “I always had a profound interest in social studies. I had traveled the world and had visited so many historical sites. I had first-hand knowledge of historical places and modern events which made it easy for me to fit into the role of a social studies teacher. As a teacher, no one is trying to harm me, I go home every day, I do not have to suffer out in the extreme heat or extreme cold. I am not asked to travel to distant places and be separated from family and friends. Besides, it’s nice having every holiday, weekends and summers free.”

“I served my country for twenty years in the Army. I have served my community for twenty years as a teacher. I enjoy doing things which so many other people find too difficult. It makes me feel needed, useful, and productive. I’m very glad that I can continue my service right here at Darby Junior High.”