Mount Clemens native, former Navy SEAL, presented with Purple Heart

By: Alex Szwarc | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published November 24, 2021

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MOUNT CLEMENS — Over 50 years have passed since Ray Smith Jr. served his country, but that doesn’t mean the recognition stops.  

Last month, Smith was presented with a Purple Heart for heroism and sacrifice. He was formally recognized in a ceremony at Naval Special Warfare Center’s Basic Training Command onboard Naval Base Coronado, in California.

Smith is a Mount Clemens native who enlisted in the Navy in September 1968.

The Purple Heart is awarded to service members who were killed or wounded by enemy action.

Capt. Bradley Geary, commanding officer, Basic Training Command, presented Smith with the Purple Heart award surrounded by Smith’s family and friends. It was presented in the same place where Smith first earned the distinction of being a Special Warfare Operator.

“Naval Special Warfare is built on the shoulders of those who came before us and displayed the courage, integrity and grit we work to instill in our candidates every day,” Geary stated in a press release. “While Ray was convalescing from his injuries, he was separated from the Navy and his Purple Heart was forgotten in the process. Today, we rectify that discrepancy — in his record and Naval Special Warfare’s history — here on this grinder, where it matters most.”

Following his graduation from Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL, or BUD/S, he reported to SEAL Team One and was quickly deployed to Vietnam. While in the elite Navy unit, Smith was an engineman 2nd Class.

The release notes that in a June 12, 1970 mission, while inspecting a village for arms and food storage bunkers, Smith and his platoon came under heavy fire.

“During the subsequent fire fight, Smith was shot in the arm,” it states. “The bullet travelled into his neck and passed through part of his carotid artery. Smith was medically evacuated and treated for his injuries.”

Smith was discharged from the Navy in 1970 and began a career as an engineer.

Smith’s Purple Heart ceremony was also attended by Army Capt. John Leandro, the pilot responsible for evacuating Smith from the battlefield following his injuries.

Smith declined an interview with C & G Newspapers for this story.