Updated: Jul 31
My name is Garrett J Smith, and this is my life story in 30 minutes of reading. I had a lot of growing up in life with many challenges. I'm grateful for this life given. Pictures of me down below.
Born January 1974 in Southern Arizona (Willcox) and raised by my grandmother (Betty Woodrow). Sadly, my mother (Susan Smith) was killed in a car accident when I was only 9 months old and don’t have any memories of her. I was told by her siblings she was only 21 at the time of her death. From what I learned about my mom, she was a social butterfly which knew how to keep friends and family in great spirits. She always had a certain glow about her that could light up a room. I wish I could have gotten to know her before she passed. When I was a little older, I remember going to my mom’s grave site in Bowie Arizona and my feet prints are on her grace stone. Unfortunately, I grew up not having or knowing my father (Bobby Combs) which later in my early 20s I reached out to a few relatives, and they knew how to put me in touch with him.
Since I was only raised by my grandmother and no grandfather, I had a rather rough childhood as I was very defying and would never listen. Blame it on ADHD and OCD as my impulsive behavior made it extremely difficult on everyone Including my aunts and uncles who would care for me at times. Since I was left alone quite often, I found myself to be very adventurous and always outside playing with toy cars and building forts. I used to take a garden tool called a hoe to make roads in the dirt so I could play with my cars and trucks. Used to dig big holes in the ground and covered them with wood. Willcox was a small town located right off I-10 highway. It was basically a truck stop town from what I knew growing up. Back around 1983 or 84, our class did a tour of the freshly built McDonald's which had a basement which was pretty cool and such a long time ago. I remember filling sand bags at the local police station as we were preparing for a flood. Being in such a dry area, we would get dust storms and since the ground was so hard and when it rained it would flood easily. We had a black and white TV growing up and never spent too much time inside. I had a dog named bear and she was a Queensland heeler. Her tail and tips of ears were cut off to make her look like a cub bear which I remember that day as I heard her yelp as she was getting them cut off. She always chewed my seats of my bicycle and bit at my front tire causing me to flip. I was so mean to her and even shot her with a BB gun when she was bad. She lived for about 14 years and had cancer, so my family put her down. I used to ride my bicycle into town which was about five miles. That was my freedom especially when my grandma was bartending. I remember selling newspapers for a local business and would spend the money on pinball and video games. When I ran out of money, I would go to the local bar that my grandma worked and would play pool with grownups which taught me everything I know about pool. Heck, from what I was told, I was practically raised in a bar and when I was just a baby that I would be placed on the bar so people could watch over me. It probably wasn’t the best place for a me but at least I had caring drunk people to watch over me and show me what it was like to be raised in a bar. One day my friend and I were hanging out right outside Cowboys Bar and we found a bullet laying on the ground. Well my dumbass decided it would be fun to throw it at the ground and bang it went off. it was so loud. Thankfully nobody was hurt and everyone came running outside the bar to see what happen. Of course we played dumb and didn't know what happened. Nobody ever knew it was use or really me. My first time ever going to a movie theater was with my aunt Jacque and we watched a movie called Terms of Endearment. Needless to say that I slept through most of the movie. Definitely wasn't for little kids. A great memory was seeing a dog climb a ladder. Total mind blowing as I didn’t think they could climb such things. My grandma used to take me to Mexico a lot to buy cigarettes which I never knew until later that she was buying Valium drugs. I just thought we were visiting friends. I Rembrandt remember one time my grandma stopped at a hotel and I sat at the bar drinking soda and she disappeared for about an hour. God only knew what she was doing. Crazy times. We had a little mini golf course down the road from us and had a school friend live there and would spend hours play mini golf which was fun and the only thing to do. We used to go to local rodeos which I never paid attention as I was too busy playing. I remember me and another kid getting in trouble at school for peaking in the girl’s locker room and the coach had us go inside the locker room and all the girls got to see us be spanked with a wooden paddle. Ouch it hurt but I held my tears back while the other boy balled his eyes out. Maybe that's why I didn't cry. The paddle had holes drilled in it to make it easier to swing which I didn't feel any difference. We used to break dance during recess which I was never good at, but it was fun. I remember them playing Whodini and Run DMC. There was what was called a dry lake close to our home which we lived in a single wide trailer but anyways my uncle Lee drove us out there and got stuck. He explained that the dry lake was like quicksand, and it had taken a train carrying treasure, but I assume it wasn’t real. We had to walk a few miles to get help with pulling his truck out which was buried up to the tailgate. I remember my uncle Richard used to ride his dirt bike around the ten acres we lived on and one day I thought I would be nice and wash his bike. Well let’s just say that water shouldn’t go up the tail pipe. I completely flooded his engine, boy was he upset. Just like the time I washed my mom’s poodle; I didn’t know holding its head under water would kill it. My grandma was yelling for me to hurry up and get in the car. I took my mom’s poodle and sat it next to its water bowl with its head in the bowl. Grandma later found it and knew right away what I had done. Of course, I tried lying about what I had done, and boy did I ever get a spankin. I got spanked a lot as a kid. My cousin Amy was over playing with me, and we were riding a bike together until I crashed then she got mad at me and tried throwing something at me. Well let’s just say it didn’t end well as I pushed her into a cactus. Ouch. One day I remember my uncle Richard and aunt Jacque being at my house and my uncle Richard was laying on the couch watching TV and my aunt Jacque said something to him and tossed a wet diaper at his face. All I remember is my aunt running out the door as my uncle was chasing her down the road. I still don’t know how that ended. Wasn’t good I bet. Great times. I also remember my uncle Lee living with us, but he was never around much. In July of 1985 my uncle Richard got married. I remember being there with my cousin Amy and we had a blast. I played so hard that I ended up getting sick at the end of the night.
So, my grandma dated a man that we went to Rhode Island to visit his family. Sadly, I was molested by one of his brothers and he wanted me to touch his privates. I was scared as I was young and by myself with him. He said not to say anything otherwise he would punish me. I never said or told anyone until I was an adult. Quite sad that stuff like that happens but it also happened again from a neighbor across the street which I believe he was still in high school. I learned that we all experience something bad in our lifetime especially when growing up. Being an only child and very young including starting to go through puberty, I found myself looking at naughty magazines and doing things that most young boys should be doing or experiencing. I remember my uncle Lee and aunt Jerry’s wedding day. It was very nice and was done at our home. My grandma’s boyfriend was there and apparently no one liked him. I remember seeing my grandma’s brother John punching her boyfriend in the nose after the wedding was finished. Being young and seeing that happen wasn’t right and it scared me. I later learned that my grandma’s boyfriend was part of a mafia and was a bad man. The fight didn’t end well for neither of them. Her boyfriend lived with us and had taught me how to shoot his guns. He bought me a BB gun to practice with. My grandma broke up with him not long after that. I later learned that they were married, and I was adopted by him and even though I had his last name, I always used my birth name. I didn’t learn that I had his last name until I filled for my birth certificate later in life.
My best friend lived across the highway, and we always got in trouble for something I would convince him to do. One day we were alone playing inside, and I had a BB gun that I just got. I was dumb and as my friend was leaving, I said jokingly to never come back, and I shot him in the back on accident as I thought it wasn’t loaded. The local sheriff come arrest me and take me to jail. I was only ten years old and scared to death. My grandma came to get me, and I never seen my friend ever again. I later found him on social media and learned that he still has the BB in his back, and he forgave me.
198, we moved to New Mexico with my aunt Nedra and uncle Larry on the Bell Ranch. I learned a lot living with my family and cousins being on a ranch and it was an hour bus ride to and from school. Believe I was in fifth grade at the time and struggled to focus and learn being in a new school. I remember playing the saxophone which was great to play even though my aunt and uncle hated it as it was loud and annoying. Let’s just say I wasn’t the best, but it was sure fun. I remember going coyote hunting with my uncle and it was my first time ever going hunting. We shot so many and found a bobcat stuck in a trap. They hunted coyotes for there fur then later sold it. I learned as a young kid to hunt and be a rancher.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long until my grandma decided to move us to Truth or Consequences New Mexico. I remember my grandma working at a nursing home right next door to my school. I used to go visit residents and was taught how to crochet and play games. I also went back to the school and helped with cleaning as I was bored. While being in a new school, I used to play marble toss and draw lots of pictures. It was fun. I was found by a girl that I went to elementary school with back in Willcox. She was the first girl that I kissed being in second grade. I was shocked to see her again especially being at a different school and state. Crazy how times goes by. I remember playing little league baseball as a catcher. I had my arms extended out to far and was hit in the elbow by a baseball bat. It cracked my elbow and was out after the first few games. At the end of fifth grade school year I learned that I failed and had to repeat fifth grade again. It was embarrassing and I hated that I wouldn't see any of my new friends again as the sixth graders went to a different school. One day my friend and I were shooting my BB gun behind my house and again did something foolish. We were daring each other to put our fingers at the end of the barrel and shoot. Wanted to feel the air come out but sadly there was a BB in gun and my friend shot his finger. Well, the BB got stuck inside his finger and he had to go to the hospital which I ended up getting in trouble. One day I was riding my bike with friends and decided to try jumping off a piece of concrete which ended up bad. I flipped and slid on my face which I ended up getting 21 stitches put inside my lower lip. After that happened, I didn’t ride my bike again as I was afraid. It wasn’t long after that we ended up moving to Pima Arizona on a ranch with my uncle Richard. I had to take a short bus to school which took about an hour and the road was not paved. It was very rough and bumpy. I remember we went through a washed out area and hit it so hard that it threw us out of our sets and most of us hit the roof of the bus. Ouch nothing like having a headache while being at school. My aunt and uncle used to take us to an old western store/bar that used to have local bands playing music like ZZ Top in Back to the future. It was awesome sitting on bales of hay and dancing on a old wooden floor. Not long after being there I started riding my bike again and wasn't afraid. Unfortunately living there didn’t last long, and we moved into town which at least it was closer to my school.
Living in Pima we got to see my grandma’s brother John Woodrow. It was nice being able to see him and his family. I had a commodore 64 computer and would play games and having those floppy disks were something. My uncle Johns family had a PlayStation which I was always hanging out playing Mario brothers which we beat so many times. It was to the point of who could play the game the fastest. I had a great time with his family. My uncle John was a truck driver and when I was younger, I remember going on my first truck driving road trip to Chicago and back. I was bored yet learned a lot about trucking. How to tie down cargo loads, polish chrome and learned what lot lizards were at truck stops. I would always see women hardly dressed walking around each truck knocking on doors which I thought they needed help but that wasn't the case. A woman came up to my uncle and started flirting with him then she finally realized I was there and she left. Shortly after that my uncle gave me some coins to go play video games. Hmm, I can only imagine what happened. Going back home was awful as the load had issues with leaking and was splattering tar all over peoples cars which was awful. We figured it out and covered them. I had a 3-Wheeler while living in Pima and I was always out cruising around in the mountains and trails. I got picked on a lot by a neighbor kid and he would knock me off my 3-Wheeler. He was such a bully. My cousin Amy came down to stay the weekend and we went out 3-wheeling which was a blast until my dumbass decided to do something stupid. It was getting late in the evening and we were headed back home, well I decided to try taking a shortcut which evolved going up a steep hill. So I said hold on tight here we go and off went. I made it up 3/4 of the way and my 3-wheeler stalled. Oh crap was that ever so scary. We jumped off and tried pushing it up which was a bad decision. The 3-wheeler went backwards flipping and rolling down the hill. When it reached the bottom the handle bars were bend which was really the only thing damaged. Unfortunately it wouldn't start and it was getting dark so we had to walk home. That was scary because all we heard was coyotes and found a dead dog on our way. We finally made it home and I got yelled at and spanked for even taking my cousin. I was at school and we were out playing soccer when one of the kids decided to be mean to me for not kicking the ball to him. Later when we were in the locker room, he decided to pick a fight with me which was my first real fight ever. We threw punches then wrestled to the ground. I picked him up and there was a stair railing that I tried throwing him over until the couch came and broke us apart and sent us to the principles office. We both sat in there waiting for over an hour and were told to never fight again and was dismissed. We got lucky and we actually became friends afterwards.
1988, We moved again, this time to Payson Arizona where we lived with my aunt Jacque and uncle Keith. We actually lived in a little travel trailer right outside their home. It wasn’t the best place but at least I was in a good area and safe. Living with my cousin Amy and Cassy was nice was nice because they were close in age and fun to be with. My aunt Jacque used to make tortillas and my cousins and I would go through the neighborhood and sale them. They were a hit for so many people and so yummy. My aunt used to take us camping down by a river which I had so much fun and so many great memories. We used to go camping or just make a day of it almost every weekend. living with my aunt and uncle was great. It felt like I had a mom and dad even though they weren't. My aunt and uncle moved a few times and once again my grandma couldn’t get along, so we moved to a trailer park. We once again moved back in with my aunt and uncle as they had bought a larger home. It was great having my own room again. I was at that age being a teenager that I thought I knew everything and was stubborn. My friend had let me borrow a cassette that was named Two Live Crew which I was big into rap music. Well needless to say that my uncle didn’t approve of it and took it away. It was just a little a rap music with a lot of swear words. Lol. Okay it was way worse than that but who was I to judge. Later my grandma couldn’t get along with family, so she moved out. I ended up staying with my aunt and uncle as I felt I didn’t want to live with my grandma anymore. When I was in high school, I had some friends that stole go-carts from people’s houses and got busted. Well unfortunately, I bought an engine from them and was busted for buying stolen goods which I knew they were stolen. I had a fine to pay and community service. My uncle Keith made me get a job at a Mexican food restaurant as a dishwasher and learned not only how to wash dishes but to make tortilla chips. I got to see what it was like to work and earn money. I ended up getting fired so I started working at Wendy’s as a cook and was only seventeen at the time and was addicted with making money. I had a good friend that I spent time with him and his family. We built trailers to put behind our bicycles and would haul a lawnmower and would go around the neighborhood mowing lawns for only 10 to 20 dollars. It wasn't a lot but at least we made a little money which felt good knowing that some of the older people didn't need to mow. At the time his parents owned a bakery and I used to help make donuts which were yummy. I remember there being a huge forest fire called the Dude Fire. It was extremely large and could see it from town. We used to make donuts and baked goods and send them to the forest fire fighters. It was an honor. My friend and I would work on small engines together which some were really old, and we got them running. Huge accomplishment as we didn’t really know what we were doing. My girlfriend and I used to go to parties out in the woods where we had nice bonfires which the local sheriffs would try to bust but we always knew how to ditch them in the woods. Fun times. I remember being a freshman in high school and went to my first prom with my girlfriend. I was dressed in a white tux, and she was wearing a light blue dress. We had a wonderful night together. We went to diner afterwards and I was cutting up my steak and I knocked it off my plate and it went all over my pretty white tuxedo. Yeah, only I could mess up a white tuxedo. Lol. The start of my sophomore year I had gotten my girlfriend pregnant, so I dropped out of school to become a responsible father. Yes, I know, I started young. I guess you can say I was young dumb and full of...… Anyways we both decided to get married after our son Christopher was born in 1992. Few months after my son was born, I received a call that my grandma had a stroke and lived. My aunt and uncle decided to help her and moved her back in with them. I was sad but happy she lived and was able to see and meet her first great grandson. Sadly, she passed away in 1992 and was cremated so we ended up burying her at the foot of my mom’s grave. It was a special moment.
1994, was our wedding day and just an hour before my uncle Richard demanded that I change his oil in his car which was messy. The things I'd do for family .My Fiancé and I got married in a Christian Church we went to and it was such an amazing day. It was a very nice wedding with family and friends. My wife and I would always go camping or just go down to the local river which was fun and made great memories. We used to go to a Christian Church and had lots of friends. We used to volunteer for plays and events. I remember being part of an Easter play and I was a Roman guard who ordered Jesus to be nailed to the cross. It was very emotional for me as it made me realize how awful it was. It really made me open my eyes and see things differently.
1995. At this point my priority was to provide for my family so I started a career in construction mostly stick framing houses and installing insulation. Let's just say that my job and my family came with a lot of learning curves and growing up as I found myself to be very impulsive and thought only about myself. Don’t get me wrong, I always took pride in everything I worked on and tried hard to never burn bridges because it’s a small world. My wife and I had gone to a huge country concert called Country Thunder. We took a little camping trailer and stayed the weekend. It was my first real concert and was amazing. We had so much fun and met a lot of the country singers. In 1995 our daughter Brittany was born which was life changing and was a proud dad. I was starting to wonder about where and how I could find my dad Bobby Combs. After talking with some of my family, they were able to put me in touch with him. Finally, after all these years I get to talk to my birth dad. I found out that I had five older siblings (Anthony, Amanda, Anna, Austin, and Robert). I got to meet my oldest brother Anthony down in Phoenix as he was passing through driving a semi-truck. We met at a bowling alley and hit it off. Felt amazing meeting a brother I never knew.
May of 1996, I received notice that my grandpa on my dad’s side had passed away and I was invited to his funeral as a pole bearer. I ended up meeting aunts, uncles, cousins that I never knew. It was quite a shock, but it felt wonderful to meet my dad and siblings Including my dad’s side of the family. I definitely looked more like my mom than my dad but have a little resemblance with my brothers and sisters. We lived at my wife’s mom’s house which at the time her mom had moved to a different state. Life was going somewhat well then, I had to make poor decision. My impulsiveness behavior with buying a loud stereo system and other things was affecting us financially and causing us to not get along. I used to cruise around with my kids playing my loud booming music which I thought was cool but later realized that it was not safe for anyone. We were friends with another family of four that needed a temporary place to stay so we let them move in with us. Sadly, them living with us was tearing us apart. They had a 16-year-old daughter that my young and selfish side started to flirt with. I was 23 and was not being smart at all. I was at a stage in my life where I wasn’t happy, and I decided to take a job working for my wife’s dad’s company inspecting towers all over the states. It was a tough decision, but it was full time and paid well. I would stay away from home for about six weeks then come home for a week. I missed my family, but I was traveling to new places and really enjoying it. My wife’s mom decided to move back home which meant that we had to find another place to live.
Bought our first home together in 1998 and was so proud to have something of our own. Lol. My daughter Brittany used to wake up in the middle of the night and sneak ice cream sandwiches out of freezer then watch cartoons. Well, that was okay, but we would later find them under her pillow and in her dresser drawers. She thought she would be sneaky by hiding them for later. Crazy girl. Lol. I would hide under Christopher's bed and scare him at night. I remember waking up and finding my daughter sleeping in a box in front of her brother’s bedroom door. How sweet was that she wanted to be close to her brother. Such great memories. Working away from home was hard and during our eleven years of being married I had a lot of growing up to do. Sadly, my unwillingness to be faithful including my lack thereof maturity wrecked our marriage and we separated and later officially divorced the year of 2002. I can honestly say that my ex-wife didn’t deserve what I put her through. She was and will always be caring, loving, smart and one woman you didn't want to mess with. I remember a time when a guy that I didn't know had approached me at a gas station and started getting in my face. Right away she jumped between us and threaten to beat him up. Lol. Wow, now you know who wore the pants in our relationship. Even though we look back on our lives together, we still laugh about it and are still good friends today. My job before and after my divorce was building cell phone towers which had me traveling all over the United States. It wasn’t exactly the most enjoyable job and it never failed that we would work in Texas in the summer and Wisconsin in the winter. Lots of up and down moments being in the tower industry literally as we climbed up and down. Lol. Before the time of my divorce, I had met a girl in Wisconsin and instantly fell in love. “Hand coving face “what a dummy! Well, it wasn’t long until I got her pregnant and since I was so in love with her, I asked her to marry me. We found a place to live in Watertown Wisconsin and February of 2002, our son Skylar was born. I loved my fiancés family as they welcomed me into their home and lives with open arms. Something I haven’t seen before living out west which is why I loved Wisconsin so much. The families are so strong hearted and have a bond that can’t be broken. I was so happy and in love especially knowing that I found a family that truly loves me. We were struggling financially but was still proud of everything we had together. A year later I was still working on the road and sadly, my fiancé couldn’t stand to be left alone and was unfaithful. I was crushed, angry and felt betrayed. We separated and unfortunately, I became very selfish and careless afterwards. I was so careless that I had a relationship with a married woman that resulted in her marriage ending. What kind of man does that to another family? A selfish, arrogant, and impulsive person does that. What a complete jerk I was. But wait! What I felt was exactly how my ex-wife felt minus the breaking a family apart. You see looking back on my actions, I firmly believe in karma. In the end it wasn’t her fault entirely, it was mine for not listening and being once again too impulsive. I thought I was doing the right thing the best I knew how but reality slapped me hard. At this point, I now had three kids, no education, no place to live and financially upside-down and was failing my job. I officially hit rock bottom. The taste of dirt sucked. Thankfully I had a good friend let me stay with him which was a blessing and I continued to work two jobs at night and still wasn’t financially making it. I did some crazy things in my like getting my very first tattoo and got my tongue pierced which some might not admit to later in life but I have no regrets. My roommate decided to move out because his lease was up. I was freaking out about where I would go and how would I survive.
Mid 2003, a Navy Recruiter reached out to me about joining the Reserves. I explained my current situation and even told him I never graduated high school. He said there are ways around that and not to worry. I remember he said one weekend a month and two weeks a year. He said the Navy had a new program which allows civilians to use their job history or career to easily join and make rank. Darn recruiter suckered me in, and I enlisted December 2003 which was the best thing I’d ever done for a career. Not bragging but I only had to do two weeks of boot camp which was straight up nonstop activities and went by quick and which was a good learning experience. I knew that my new career would not be enough financially, so I started working at Target third shift and a bouncer at a night club. The night life was fun but eventually became exhausting. My lucky break was the apartment complex I was about to move out of just so happened to have a job opening for a ground’s keeper in exchange for free rent and a place to live. Woo, who. I got to stay in the same apartment, and it was a weight lifted off my shoulders. Eventually I ended up quitting my job at Target so I could focus more on my grounds keeper job and continued to work as a bouncer on the weekends. I ended up being promoted from grounds keeper to an apartment maintenance technician which included getting paid on top of free rent. I had just returned from a two-week annual training exercise that was a great learning experience and made new friends. I was working as a part time bouncer when I met this beautiful, firecracker woman that I couldn’t take my eyes off. We met in the summer of 2005. She was beautiful and caring not to mention wild and fun to be around. I was at a point in my life where I wasn’t wanting a serious relationship but there was something about her that I feel for. We started dating and yes like every couple we fell in love with each other. Unfortunately, I had some hurdles to jump over when it came to her parents and her. You see, even though I was getting my life back on track, there was couple things that I still had to fix. First was getting my high school diploma or GED and second was somehow digging out of the back-child support I owed which was a huge debt. I made a commitment and stuck with it. I enrolled at a technical college that offered a program that would let me earn my actual high school diploma and physically graduate with a local high school. I received my high school diploma in 2006 which felt amazing to have accomplished something in life. Everything started going well for me and about a year of dating, I had the crazy idea to propose to her. It happened to be a Navy Reserve drill weekend and I was still in uniform. She always talked about her love for puppies, so I ended up buying a cute fluffy stuffed animal. I know, I know, why not a real one which we already had her dog, and we could only have one pet. Anyways I knew she was working that day at her hair salon. I walked end and spoke with the owner then walked over and knelt down on one knee and proposed to her with the ring tied to the puppy’s collar. What an incredible and amazing day it was. She said yes! We originally planned for our wedding to be sometime mid 2007 but sadly I got a phone call saying I was selected for active duty and had to report on January 2007. We sped the wedding up to December 2006 and we had an unforgettable wedding day. You see prior to the wedding; she placed an order for her wedding dress which she was told it would take about six months which we had plenty of time but since the phone call we had to have a backup dress made. Lots of anxiety with less than two months’ notice and still had to find a place to get married in and hold a reception. Hold your breath folks this is exciting. We not only found a banquet room to have our wedding, but the same place also provided everyone’s meals and not to mention free live entertainment and was also connected to a hotel for guests to stay in. Okay now for the exciting and surprising part that left some speechless. Remember the original wedding dress that wasn’t going to make it in time, well no one knew including me, but she ended up getting her new dress. Wait for it. Most of her family seen her first dress and when she was about ready to walk down the Aisle, she changed into her new dress and completely surprised everyone. Such an amazing memory.
2007, I started my deployment and went to Port Saint Lucie naval Seabee base in California where we trained for a couple months. Training went very well and I learned a lot. We were told that we were going to Iraq and right before I was deployed, we were given time off to have family come to visit. My wife came and it was so great to see her. We went to a museum and the ocean. I ended up getting my second tattoo which I almost passed out from being in pain, but it was worth it. I was stationed in Fallujah, and it was quite scary with incoming motor rounds and shots. We worked on many different projects Along with Marines building wooden shelters called swahuts for the Iraq army and we built watch towers. Most of all this work was done at night as less chance of threats plus it was a little cooler at night as I remember one day being 130 degrees. It was quite the learning experience, and I became friends with some amazing people. I was lucky to be able to call home just about everyday as the base had a recreational area. I remember the sand being like powder just about up to our knees in some places. Fallujah just wasn’t dessert. At one time it was a very nice place as they had lakes and gardens including some really nice houses and buildings. There was a storage lot that Marines guarded and as a huge thank you, a few Seabees and I had managed to quietly take some building supplies from our inventory and built a 12x24 shelter and I decided to add a little customization to the corner where the front door would go. Basically chopped off the corner and made a small porch with a nice front door. They were so happy to have a place to stay in so they could guard the lot. We never asked for anything in return but we were given extra gear that was very useful. When my deployment ended, I went back home and ended up taking a job in Joliet Illinois with a tower company. So, we up and moved which unfortunately my wife gave up a really great job at her hair salon just for my career. After settling in, our son Everett was born in 2009 and work was really busy. I was happy that we didn’t have to travel as much, and I was happy to be home every night. So the place we were renting had a skunk living under the garage. I was sitting outside on the steps and here came the skunk passing right by me only a couple feet away. Oh boy I was so nervous that I would be sprayed but I sat still and let it pass by. I later found the hole it dug under the garage, and I found that there were baby skunks that were just born. So, me being nosey, I dug them out and we ended up raising a few until they started to stink so we found a new home for them. Yes, we were crazy, but it was a really great experience raising them and they were super cute. We did something crazy and bought a ski boat off eBay and had to drive nonstop from Chicago to Northern New York. When we got to its pickup location, the ski boat didn’t look anything like it was advertised as. We managed to get the price lowered and drove back. Let’s just say that we named the boat bad idea. It wasn’t long till I took a new job and relocated us to Appleton Wisconsin which was a learning lesson as the house we were going to buy had back taxes owed and turned out the house was a complete disaster, so we moved right down the street. My oldest son Christopher had moved in with us right as we left Joliet Illinois which he was a big help. He was still in high school, so it was my first time ever registering one of my kids in school. It felt great and I was so happy to have him in my life more. He made friends right away and it was great to see him so happy. I was even more shocked that he wanted to join the military and he spoke to a Navy recruiter. He passed his tests and would be going to Boot camp as soon as he graduated high school. His goal was to try out for the Navy seals after boot camp. I was so proud of him that I bought him his first truck. Sadly, I learned that my job was being given to someone within the company because I was subbed out to them, so I had to find a new job. It was discouraging as I really liked my job. I got lucky and found a new job that paid a lot so I couldn’t turn it down. I was a tool room manager for a construction company that worked with nuclear power plants. My drive was about an hour each way, but it was worth the drive. My career totally changed directions as for the type of work I had done in the past. The downside with taking the new job is the position only lasted for six months then we had to move to Jensen Beach Florida to set up and manage a new tool room at a nuclear power plant. I had a lot to think about as moving again would cause a lot of tough decisions to be made. We would be moving away from my wife’s family and my oldest son would have to change schools again which wouldn’t be so good as he would have to go to high school for an extra year which isn’t fair for him. Unfortunately, he didn’t want to move with us as he wanted to finish high school which at the time, he was 18 years old and old enough to make his own decisions. I respected his decision and felt bad for putting him in that situation. I’m very appreciative that his best friend’s family offered a place for him to stay until school was finished. Late 2010 we moved to Florida and started my new job. We moved into an amazing apartment complex which was a few miles from the ocean. We made lots of great memories while being there. 2011 our daughter Gracelyn was born, and she was so adorable. My job was going great, and my life was right where I wanted it to be. We spent a lot of time at the ocean and even had my son Skylar come visit and my oldest daughter Brittany which we all went to sea world. Such an amazing experience and wonderful memories. We would go to a restaurant that was called Craw daddy’s and they always had a band playing outside. Everett would bring is toy guitar and act like he was playing with them. He was such a hit. Everyone got such a good laugh and awesome entertainment. Sadly, early 2012, my Navy unit was called to active duty and yes, I was also called to. I was so upset because we had just moved down to Florida and was just getting settled in when we later learned right before I was deployed that my wife was pregnant with our third child. Let it be known that before this happened, I was supposed to get a vasectomy, but I used the excuse that I was to busy at work which in reality I was just scared. Heck, if my wife can have two kids then I should have been brave enough to get it done. Right before being deployed, I moved my family up to Northern Wisconsin to be closer to my wife’s family. Mid 2012 I deployed to Afghanistan and was stationed at the Bagram airfield. Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to say much but I can say that since I was a builder in the Navy and had civilian experience managing tool rooms that I was given the tool room manager and loaded materials for other job sites. It was a great experience though we still had incoming mortar rounds. I was blessed to be able to call my wife every day and had access to social media.
October 2012 my son Caleb was born. I was so happy yet sad that I couldn’t be there for my wife and family. They were going to send me home, but my wife insisted that I stay as her mom and dad were there to help. I was happy to know she had family support. My Senior Chief and I smoked cigars and drank nonalcoholic beverages which I don’t ever smoke but I was very grateful I had someone to talk to. We had many different types of holidays to celebrate while being overseas and we always had something on the grill. I had the privilege to meet a few Harlem globe trotters and watch a concert. When my deployment ended In April 2013, I was so excited to finally go home to see my family. As I got off the airplane, I got to meet my new son Caleb and hold him for the very first time which was a priceless moment. After a couple weeks being home, I had to go back to work. I called my employer to notify them I was back home, and they sent me to Kitimat British Columbia to setup a new tool room for a local construction site. I feel in love with being there even though it was for only a month. The mountains and rivers were beautiful and a must see. I so wanted to move my family there, but it was short term, and my company had a new job for me in Pueblo Colorado. Mid 2013, we bought our first home in Pueblo and started my new job. I was working on an Army base and was an old chemical weapons Depot. Our company was there to build a new plant to destroy old muster agent used back in WW2. My new position was a warehouse employee which was way different than what I had expected. After a few months of being there I was assigned a job as a buyer. It was a great learning experience and I felt proud that I finally had a solid career. Being in Colorado was a great adventure as we are always went hiking in the beautiful mountains and always took the kids to the zoo in Colorado Springs. We were blessed to live close to our kids’ elementary school which was walking distance from our home. We had a 500 square foot garden that was huge, and we grew so many vegetables that we donated to our neighbors. I came home from work one day and was surprised by my wife when she decided to take down the kitchen cabinets and started sanding them. Lol. Guess who had to remodel the whole kitchen. Yep, this guy. It turned out amazing. Like every homeowner, there was always something needing fixed or replaced. my wife had built this awesome sandbox for the kids to play in and crazy me decided that they needed shade, so I ended up building roof and a bench, so they had something to sit or play with their toys on. I remember first time my son Everett started riding his bike. Such an exciting day and not long after that he was riding to school. Kids made good friends and we had such great neighbors. Things were going great at my work, and I ended up getting a promotion. I had learned that my company was looking for a experienced material buyer at the uranium processing plant in Oak Ridge Tennessee. Well, after giving it a lot of thought and talking with my wife and kids, I applied for the position and was accepted.
Mid 2015, we sold our home in Pueblo which I must give a lot of credit to my wife for packing up the entire house and traveled to her parents’ house in northern Wisconsin with our kids. I had traveled to Oak Ridge to start working and look for a new home to buy. I found us a big house that was newer, so nothing had to be fixed. It had a built-in movie theater and a huge playroom for the kids. We finally got settled in and established friends in the neighborhood right away. Most of the kids that lived by us loved our huge driveway and water slide. Living in Knoxville Tennessee was so different. We left the Rocky Mountains to live in the Smokey mountains which was beautiful. We went hiking every chance we had and took the kids to the zoo all the time. I remember taking the boys to a monster truck jam and they loved it. My wife had established friends that did yoga, and she was an inspiration to everyone including me. I used to watch her and take photos so she could share with her yoga group. 2016 I had to go on a two-week annual exercise in Gallup New Mexico and built mobile housing for the Navajo tribe. What an honor it was, and we got to learn about what a code talker was and what they did during wartime. It was a great experience, and I had the honor to meet a medal of honor recipient. after returning home, I started having problems with my lower back and went to a chiropractor to get adjusted. December 2016, we traveled up to Northern Wisconsin to visit my wife’s family for Christmas and drove nonstop. My back was still hurting and while being up in northern Wisconsin, they had a lot of snow to shovel. Unfortunately, I was in so much pain that my left foot dropped, and I had to go see a chiropractor to be adjusted. After a few days I had felt better but my foot still didn’t go back to normal. Early February 2017, I started to have sinus drainage causing me to cough all the time and it wouldn't go away so after many visits to my primary DR I was finally referred to an ENT towards of the end of March. After seeing an ENT for a couple of months due to my slurred speech and randomly choking they referred me to a neurologist. I remember this day all too well. June 02, 2017, I went to see a neurologist and I went through a series of tests including an EMG, blood, MRI, and a spinal puncture. My neurologist asked me if I have ever heard of ALS (Lou Gehrig Disease) and I said yes, I participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge which I had ice cold water dumped over my head. Truthfully at that time I had no idea what ALS really was other than it was a disease. Doctor said to have my family members present for the result on June 30th and of course I was by myself for the initial appointment so talk about deer in the head light look. There was no emotion, just a blank stare and all I could think about was why me and how did I get such a disease.
June 24, 2017, I had a drill weekend which was a special day. I was promoted to First Class Petty Officer and my wife had the privilege to put my new ranking pins on my uniform. It was a well-deserved accomplishment. Six days later June 30, 2017, I was officially diagnosed with Bulbar Onset ALS and was told the average life expectancy was six to eighteen months and to get my affairs in order. That entire day and weeks thereafter, the only thing on my mind was how I am going to beat this. We decided it was best to sell our home and move closer to my wife’s family so she can have help. We bought a nice older home January 2018. A year after diagnoses I tried just about everything to slow the progression down and so far, nothing has helped. Eventually I started thinking instead of beating ALS, how am I going to embrace and live with it so I may keep a good quality of life and still be a great father and husband for my family.
I had gone to my local VA clinic to get a second opinion and they confirmed that I was positive for having ALS and they recommended that I speak with their social worker which is how I found out ALS is 100% service connected and they put me in touch with a Paralyzed Veteran of America rep. Being in the military for so long, I never heard about ALS being a service-connected disease. On my last day at my reserve Center, I was able to share my story with everyone and educate them about ALS being service connected and that they are twice as likely to get this awful disease. I honestly felt relived knowing that I and my family would be taken care of financially which lifted a huge burden off our shoulders and was a blessing.
You see we all experience good and bad things growing up which I ask, when do we as humans officially grow up. For some of us it takes awhile to start seeing things differently. That’s what makes us all human. Yes, I had a lot of bad in my life but there was a lot of good in it as well. I am one to share my life history as I want people to know that we all make mistakes, but it is what we learn and how we change ourselves for the greater good. I’ve learned to show gratitude and compassion towards others because I firmly believe that I can make a difference in someone else’s life.
Thank you for taking the time to read my life story.
Garrett J Smith