Miramar National Cemetery's first casket burial salutes Army medic, vets advocate.
A longtime leader in San Diego's military veterans community on Thursday became the first person to be buried in a casket at the new Miramar National Cemetery.
John Smith died of heart failure Jan. 30 in his Spring Valley home. He was 62.
Smith, who had been an Army medic with the 1st Air Cavalry during the Vietnam War, was honored by about 200 friends and family members, including his widow, said Kirk Leopold, the cemetery director.
Smith was one of the founders of "Stand Down," an annual event that provides services to homeless veterans. He also helped launch the organization now known as Veterans Village of San Diego.
"Wherever you went in San Diego, John was there to help," Leopold said.
Roger Brautigan, the secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs, called Smith a leader in every veterans group in the county.
During the War my Brother, and his buddies would fly into Hell grab out the wounded, and get them the hell out'a there. He, and his gang were shot down 'twice', but got their charges the badly wounded to safty anyway.
They got a couple of buckets of medals for all that. Not that anyone at home at the time cared. However time, and the passing of that evil war evened things out.
Now at last he, and his pals are honored.