Vietnam veteran to speak at Black History event

Lt. Col. Allen Smith will speak at “A Town Hall Meeting” in celebration of Black History Month at 6:30 p.m. today at the Bledsoe Miller Recreation Center located on 300 N M.L.K. Jr Blvd.

Smith enlisted in the Air Force in 1950, when integration in the armed forces was still looked down upon by many.

During his many years of service, Smith went through basics, taught cadets to read in Wyoming, attended officer’s candidate school at Lackland Air Force Base, served as an intelligence officer in Korea, learned to fly cargo planes, was promoted to captain and was chief of tactical operations for an air command at Phan Rang Air Base in Vietnam. He later worked in data development in the U.S. and held a position in Waco as a Veterans Affair adjudicator until his retirement in 1985. Smith is also a graduate of Prairie View A&M University and holds a master’s degree in business.

Smith left Vietnam in 1968 and spoke little of what had happened in his time in the armed forces. This past year, Smith’s son, Michael, and his son’s wife, Janie, discovered medals and photos in a closet from his 20 years of service. After the discovery about six months ago, the Lieutenant Colonel began to tell his stories.

“In a sense, I don’t think that he thought what he achieved in the military was of any significance,” Michael Smith said. “I think it has been extremely therapeutic [to share his stories].”

Smith received attention from the James A. Edmond American Legion Post 121 after a few of their officers viewed a framed collage of Smith’s photos and awards. The post invited him to the Legion’s ball this past fall but the family was unable to attend.

The Legion is a sponsor of the town meeting as well as the city of Waco, Community Race Relations Coalition, Cultural Arts of Waco, and Waco NAACP.

The Central Texas African American Heritage Foundation, a local group that supports and presents African American culture through varied art forms, will present the event.

“I am so humbled and taken aback by the response,” Michael Smith said. “I am so moved.”