Grist Mill Field Naming To Honor Fallen Hero

Lt. Col. Gary F. Smith (USA, retired)

Although he wore a uniform and carried himself with military bearing, he was not intimidating to the young women he coached in soccer at parks in Fairfax County.

Family, friends, former players and local officials will gather together this Saturday (April 28) to remember Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Gary F. Smith, who died at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 and to rename Field #5 at Grist Mill Park in his honor. Ceremonies will be held at noon.

Community and military service

“Gary was always actively involved in sports – as a child and adult, as a player and a coach,” his wife, Ann, recalled. “In the 1980s, our girls were interested in playing soccer. Gary bought a book about coaching soccer and coached one group of girls for over 12 seasons. When you coach youth sports, you can really make an impact on your community. We are hoping to continue his positive legacy by improving this field.”

She also noted his service to country adding, “Gary cherished his Soldier’s Medal, which he received for heroism. A helicopter he was riding in in Vietnam crashed and caught fire. He went back to the wreck, and despite the intense heat and danger of explosion, rescued another soldier trapped inside. He was always proud of serving his country.”

Lt. Col. Smith, a civilian employee of the Army at the time of his death, was attending a meeting at the Pentagon when American Airlines Flight 77 struck.

Soccer enthusiast 

As a soccer coach, he is remembered fondly for his calm demeanor and soothing voice. He coached Lee-Mount Vernon Soccer Association teams that played at Grist Mill Park. His family is currently working with the Fairfax County Park Foundation to facilitate the conversion of this field to a state-of-the-art synthetic turf field with greater player capacity, a smooth, competitive surface and fewer maintenance needs. A capital campaign would provide $1 million for the project.

For more information on how to contribute, call 703-324-8582.