A leader's leader

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Some say America is in decline. The numbers, and the malaise in the news and the dissatisfaction in the streets, seem to bear that out.

But for a brief few moments Tuesday night in Augusta, it sure didn’t feel like that.

At a downtown ceremony to honor retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Perry Smith – a civilian affair arranged by friends and admirers, and capped off by the naming of a street for him at Augusta Regional Airport – you just felt great about America.

The patriotic trappings helped, of course: a stirring recitation of Johnny Cash’s Ragged Old Flag by retired Command Sgt. Maj. Tom Clark; the singing of God Bless America by Smith’s angel-voiced wife, Connor; appearances and remarks by recipients of the Medal of Honor, the military’s highest award for heroism; and more.

But what really made you feel more confident in America was simply the man the city was honoring.

Quite simply, Perry M. Smith is a great American, in every sense of the word. For his 30-year military career and 180 combat missions; for his devotion to God and family; for his service on the national Medal of Honor Foundation; and for his continued tireless work on behalf of the community he chose to retire to after a childhood and adulthood of frenetic military moving.

Most of us would be happy enough to be as accomplished as he in either military or civilian life, much less both. Besides his high-flying Air Force deployments, Smith also has been commandant of the National War College and taught multiple times at the Air Force Academy. He’s been an expert analyst on major networks CNN, NBC, CBS and elsewhere. He has taught leadership and ethics and has shown these and other tools to military leaders, scholars and business executives.

Of late, Gen. Smith’s main missions have concerned philanthropic work with the Kroc Center, Fisher House, Boy Scouts, Augusta Museum of History, Kiwanis and more. Even the still-new room at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church downtown where they honored him was much of his doing.

In short, he’s become as much a civic leader as a military one. And Augusta is inestimably better for it.

The ceremony honoring Perry Smith was more than an illusion or a temporary peek at a bygone era. It – this man’s life, really – is a road map to a greater future for America. A natural teacher, Gen. Smith has mostly taught us by example – showing us the fruits of honor, the rewards of single-minded dedication, the harvest of a life well-lived.

He has spent so much time and effort telling others’ stories – including on these pages as a regular columnist, we’re happy to claim.

It’s about time someone told his.

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Riverman1
87553
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Riverman1 11/05/11 - 07:01 am
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Gen. Smith is a leader who

Gen. Smith is a leader who respected and honored those he served with. When he worked for CNN back when it was a much bigger network in 1998 and they ran a special called "Tailwind" about Americans using nerve gas during the Vietnam War, he resigned in protest because he knew the claim was false.

He is a rare, principled man who will give up a prestigious job to protect the honor of men who decades ago gave all for their country in a remote place.

TheArmyWife
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TheArmyWife 11/05/11 - 09:47 am
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The best speaker I have ever

The best speaker I have ever heard at an event is Perry Smith, he is a true raconteur!

mike1sc
217
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mike1sc 11/05/11 - 12:58 pm
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All of us who like to

All of us who like to disagree it seems almost on a daily basis can all agree about this guy. Lets face it, America exists because of true heroes like General Smith. Honor, integrity, respect.....people like this don't have to demand these things because their daily actions always ensures those words are always used when describing them.

At a time when it seems there may be a lack of people like this, Augusta's star shines a bit brighter because of this great man.

harley_52
24031
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harley_52 11/05/11 - 01:43 pm
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A truly great man in many

A truly great man in many ways who deserves all the respect and admiration he gets. A pity there aren't more like him. We'd all be better for it.

bjphysics
36
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bjphysics 11/05/11 - 02:13 pm
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How did an Air Force guy end

How did an Air Force guy end up retiring in Augusta? I mean, what drew him to the area?

bjphysics
36
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bjphysics 11/05/11 - 02:18 pm
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Never mind, I found it: “In

Never mind, I found it:

“In retirement he has resided in Augusta, the hometown of his wife Connor Dyess Smith.”

http://www.wrdw.com/home/headlines/Perry_Smith_Parkway_to_honor_retired_...

Riverman1
87553
Points
Riverman1 11/05/11 - 03:53 pm
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Lots of military from other

Lots of military from other than the Army retire here. There is a draw with this post. Eisenhower Med. Cen., a post that's not so military if you know what I mean with a great golf course, in our warm weather and city that's just the right size for retirees.

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