Cmdr. Gene Albert Smith was eulogized as a man of honor, dedication, great intellect and discipline, Friday. He was praised for his dedication to family and for the example he set both as a father and a husband.
Smith died June 27, 1966, his aircraft shot from the skies over North Vietnam.More than 200 friends and relatives gathered to honor and welcome home the pilot who gave his life for his country and who waited almost 23 years to come home to the country he loved.
As the crowd gathered on a cemetery knoll under overcast gray skies, a cadre of naval seamen carried the flag-draped casket to the open grave. A color guard whose members came from the Navy, Army, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard held fast to the row of billowing flags, filled by a strong breeze from the south. A Marine honor guard vollied a 21-gun salute to their fallen comrade. A lone bugler played taps.
As the now-folded flag was offered to Smith's widow, Adele, four F-16 jets roared out of the west, one peeling upward to symbolize the missing man formation - the ultimate tribute from his fellow aviators.
It was a fitting gesture, the lone jet soaring straight up, higher and higher, as if accompanying the fallen flier on his final journey.