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Story by Jacob Rodgers, The Gazette Colorado Springs
A Marine who graduated from Doherty High School in Colorado Springs died Friday while on patrol in Afghanistan, his family said Monday.
Sgt. Jason T. Smith, 28, was killed less than a month after starting his first tour in Afghanistan when an improvised explosive device detonated, said his mother, Loretta Smith. He had previously served two tours in Iraq.
A member of the Explosive Ordinance Disposal Branch, he was based out of the Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni, Japan, according to the Department of Defense.
“He was excited that he had finally found his niche,” Loretta Smith said. “He was very proud of that.”
Born in Aberdeen, Wash., Smith moved between Kansas, Iowa and Utah before settling in 1993 with his family in Colorado Springs. He spent three years at Coronado High School before spending his senior year at Doherty High School, where he gradated in 2000.
Soon after, he joined the Marines with his best friend.
The decision wasn’t hard, said Loretta Smith. Rather, she said, he chose the Marines because of one thing: boot camp.
“It was the hardest and the longest boot camp,” Smith said. “And they wanted the hardest and the longest.”
What followed, said fellow Marines, was a career marked by a unique talent to teach.
Before joining the Marines’ explosives unit, he served as a primary marksmanship instructor at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina, training Marines how to use their pistols and rifles.
“The guy could have told me to do anything and I would have done it without hesitation,” said Sgt. Michael Brown, stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C. “He was just one of those people you just follow no matter what.”
When not studying or scoring at the top of the class in shooting exercises, Smith would listen to rock music and play horseshoes and cards. Again, he was at the top of his class.
“He was good — cutthroat,” chuckled John Quinn, who was with Smith during training to become an arms instructor.
But he was also a vivacious man, his family said, one who “never met a stranger — ever.”
When not disarming bombs, he would fish and play basketball. Growing up, he wanted little else than to play professional basketball for the Utah Jazz, said his cousin, Robyn Winge, 31, of Harrisburg, S.D.
The only problem in this plan: He found the Marines.
“That’s all he’s ever known is the Marine Corps,” Winge said. “And he loved it. He absolutely loved the Marine Corps.”