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Veteran Spotlight: Army Lt. Col. Paula Smith

By Wayne SoaresSpecial to iBerkshires
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FALMOUTH, Mass. — Paula Smith served her country in the Army for more than 20 years and retired as a lieutenant colonel. 
She grew up in Woods Hole, attended Falmouth Public Schools and pursued her undergraduate work at the University of Iowa. After briefly working for the Falmouth Enterprise, she applied (on a dare from a fellow colleague and after a drive through a Nor'easter to Western Mass to meet with the recruiter) to the Army's Baylor Graduate Program for Physical Therapy, one of 13 applicants chosen, and received her full commission as a second lieutenant.
Her first assignment would take her to Fort Riley, Kans., where she was promoted twice and got married. Smith would then be assigned to Korea at Yongsan for a year then return to Fort Campbell, Tenn., for Air Assault School, where she was an honor graduate and be the only woman in her class. It would be at Fort Campbell where her first daughter, Ava, was born. 
She would then be assigned to Fort Jackson, S.C., and conduct basic training for the Gold Standard Fitness Company. Here she did her doctorate work, started an Airborne Orientation Course and had her son, Harley. Smith would then be assigned to Fort Stewart in Georgia, where she trained with the 1st Cavalry Division Brigade Combat Team and where she had 13 surgical services under her and served as an assigned medical officer for units needing a specialist.
In 2008, Smith would deploy out of Fort Hood, Texas, to northern Iraq where she was a physical therapist for a Brigade Combat Team and responsible for more than 3,000 soldiers. 
"I lived out of an assault pack and went to Mosul, Tal Afar," she said. "I even served as a Eucharistic minister at times."
When asked about the holidays, she responded, "The 1st Cav was just like family, it was a really good family vibe." 
With emotion in her voice, she said, "I struggled with being a mom in a non-traditional setting — in a highly dangerous war zone, combat environment. I always did the family stuff with my kids, always emphatic to have dinner with my kids. I wanted my kids to value my service. ...
"My son said to me, 'Mom, if you die, I want to die with you.' My kids are strong, they went through a lot ... they're still very proud of what I've done and what service members go through."
After that deployment, Smith went to work at the Pentagon as the health director of the Soldier For Life program under the Chief of Staff of the Army. The program seeks to connect soldiers, veterans and families with supportive organizations and opportunities.
"It was great. I got to go to the White House and Congress," she recalled. 
Thoughts on her service? "It was an overwhelming honor," she said emotionally. "It was such a good fit. I don't regret a single day. I learned from the Army and the Army learned from me."
As only fitting for a remarkable career of service, her awards are in outstanding fashion: bronze star, Order of Military Medical Merit Award, the Army Surgeon General's Distinguished Military Occupational Specialty Proficiency Award and the Iron Major Award.
Smith returned home to Falmouth and initially worked in physical therapy. She is currently military and veterans services navigator at Cape Cod Community College.
Lt. Col. Paula Smith, thank you for your service to our great country.
Wayne Soares is the host of the popular new veterans cooking show, "The Mess Hall" that airs Saturdays on NBC's NECN at 9:30 a.m. He also entertains our troops around the globe and is the host and producer of the Vietnam veterans documentary "Silent Dignity – The Chapter That Never Ends." He can be reached at

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