Meet the Smith Family

Glenda Kleespie and Roger Smith

On April 15th, 1973, Lance Corporal Roger D. Smith (USMC) met Seaman Apprentice Glenda C. Kleespie (USN) when she checked in for duty at the Naval Air Station, Alameda, California Aviation Supply Activity. She had been stationed on the base for a short time prior to this meeting and he had been here for quite a while. After a whirlwind romance and over the objection of BOTH chains of command, they were married on July 29, 1973 in the Air Station Chapel. Less than a year later, she gave up the Navy to become a full-time home maker, the first of many sacrifices.

Their first son, Roger D. Smith,Jr., was born at Oakland during June of 1974 and the family moved to Peoria, Illinois shortly after his birth when Roger's enlistment ended. Glenda and Roger were disillusioned with the Corps, thinking the entire Corps was the same as Alameda, and she wasn't willing to deal with a family and the Corps, so the move was made and Roger joined the active reserves and was attached to a Marine Recon unit.

During the first part of the year, there was an emergency in Glenda's family in North Dakota, and she went home to deal with it. While home she and her mother had a long talk, and the result of the conversation was Roger flying into Fargo, North Dakota where he once again joined the Marine Corps. While Roger flew on to duty with a gun squadron at Tustin, California, Glenda and their son remained in Westhope, North Dakota. When time and duties permitted, a home was prepared and the family reunited at Santa Ana, upon Roger's return from the USS Inchon and Operation Eagle Pull, off the shores of Vietnam.

Duties at Tustin carried Roger all over the place, lots of travel and flying around, and not a lot of time at home. As a Weapons and Tactics Instructor, Roger spent a lot of time "on the road" and Glenda spent a lot of time. She was also ON HER OWN. There was the time Buddy fell through the bars of the walkway at their second floor apartment building, landing on his head. Glenda had to stand alone while he almost died, because Roger was away playing GunBunny. Of course, the Corps brought him home as soon as possible, even fragged a chopper to make it happen, but by the time Roger made it home Bud was out of the woods and resting peacefully in a hospital bed.

Their second son, Todd, was born during January of 1977 at Santa Ana, and the family moved into a bigger apartment.

During May of 1978, Glenda and the boys made a cross-country move (alone) to North Dakota while Roger packed his bags for an unaccompanied tour to Marine Corps Air Station, Iwakuni, Japan. While in Japan, Roger was ordered to a back-to-back accompanied tour on the island, and another emergency brought Roger home to Peoria, Illinois on leave. While Roger took care of business in Illinois, the Marine Corps processed departure orders for the family and Glenda once again (alone) packed up the house and kids for an international move.

When all the paperwork was completed, Roger flew to Minot, North Dakota and the Smith family departed the United States on the day before Thanksgiving, 1978 from St. Louis, Missouri on an 18-hour flight to Japan with a stop in Alaska. Crossing the international date line, they missed Thanksgiving Day that year and arrived in Iwakuni the day after.

The shock on Glenda's face when she saw the size of a Japanese apartment would be worth its weight in gold on this site, the look when she discovered neighborhood community showers was even better. Can you picture pappason walking down the street wearing nothing but a smile with a towel over his shoulder?

Japan is a beautiful country, and while stationed here, the family (with the exception of the longest seven months of their lives) lived in town among the Japanese and spent a lot more time together. Weekends were spent seeing the sites Japan has to offer, and learning about the Japanese culture. Their third son, James, was the first Iwakuni baby born in 1980. At the end of the accompanied tour, Roger was ordered to yet ANOTHER unaccompanied tour in Iwakuni, and the family remained in that country until April of 1983 when Glenda was told to pack her bags (AND the kids') for another trip alone to the United States. Roger's mother was sick so Glenda was sent with the boys to his home in Illinois while Roger packed up the house and concluded duties in Japan. Instead of going to see her own mother, she spent a month with Roger's under some rather extraordinary circumstances.

Leaving Japan during May of 1983, the family reunited in Peoria and traveled to Westhope, North Dakota for a well-deserved vacation with Glenda's family before proceeding to the Marine Corps Air Station New River at Jacksonville, North Carolina. The family stayed with friends they met while serving in Iwakuni that had arrived home earlier while they closed the deal to buy their first real home, and a promise was made to Glenda that never again would she have to pack up the kids and move. If Roger was ordered to duty elsewhere, the family would remain in Jacksonville. The duties Roger was assigned meant that he would not be away from home much, except to be retrained and also to attend military academies required for promotion.

Being stationed at "The River," Roger was ordered to school at Meridian, Mississippi to complete a Senior Staff Noncommissioned Officer's course. The school was eight weeks long, and on weekends Roger would leave the area with a Petty Officer First Class named Jim Beck to visit Jim's family in the Tennessee mountains. It was during one of these weekends that news flashed across the world of the Beirut bombing, and the weekend was cut short. Upon return to the base at Meridian, Roger found he had "graduated" the course and departed on yet another "vacation" trip to the mideast. An interesting point here is that Glenda did not know how to drive a stick shift car, and the only family vehicle was a four speed. While Roger was once again away, Glenda had to teach HERSELF how to drive it. Once again she needed Roger, but managed on her own.

In spite of just completing career training that cost a fortune, upon return to The River, Roger found his commanding officer had made a few calls and as a result, Roger now found himself working in a command staff job. After training at the US Army Academy of Health Sciences at Fort Sam Houston, Texas as a Medical Specialist, Roger returned to "special duties." The job had its faults, took Roger away from the family on a constant basis, ruined a LOT of holidays and all the while Glenda trucked right along.

There was the Thanksgiving that was ruined by a call just before dinner that sent Roger running through the woods, and also the Christmas a month later that saw Roger sitting in a hospital waiting room with the same client instead of at home with the family. This assignment lasted until October of 1988, when orders came down for an unaccompanied tour on the island of Okinawa. Roger packed his seabag and once again left Glenda with the boys as he departed for duty overseas. Needing some time to regroup his thoughts, this time, he took a month off and visited Glenda's mother in Minot, North Dakota before reporting for duty. To this day, they both agree that it was the ONLY time Roger and Glenda were apart from each other that either of them can say was "memorable."

Okinawa is known to Marines who have served there as THE ROCK. While there, Roger served with First Marine Aircraft Wing in many capacities, most unrelated to previous training. Here, he also graduated in the second class convened of the Battle Skills Training Course. Shortly after completing this training, Roger suffered his first stroke, which turned the remainder of this tour of duty into somewhat a mess. Preparing to depart Okinawa during November of 1989, Roger learned that his mother-in-law had relocated to North Carolina so preparations were made for Roger and Glenda to meet in St. Louis and then fly to North Dakota together so they could plan a well deserved two week vacation and drive mom's car from Westhope to Jacksonville so mom would have it.

Prior to Roger's arrival in the states, Glenda was involved in an auto accident which caused serious back and neck injuries, yet she still jumped on the plane and they were reunited in St. Louis. Traveling to Westhope, North Dakota, they picked up mom's car and spent a week driving days and sleeping nights in motels. Though injured, Glenda had chosen to make the trip as it was only the second time in sixteen years Roger and Glenda had been able to get away together. The trip was great, they enjoyed the drive and each other's company all the way home.

Roger was ordered back to The River from Okinawa and went about his duties while at the same time starting a computer service business on the side. He requested retirement during July of 1990, but then pulled the paperwork during August when Iraq invaded Kuwait. For years he had been given a paycheck to prepare for this, and wasn't about to leave on this note.

Once again, duty called and this time the family refused to wait on the runway at The River. After taking Roger to the base the family learned that the unit was departing out of Cherry Point and followed Roger's unit to the terminal in Havelock where they spent another eight hours waiting on the snowbird that flew the unit overseas.

During the first week of January, 1991, Roger arrived at Ras al Jubail, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a member of an entire Marine Air Group with a full compliment of helicopters and helicopter gun ships. Most days were spent on the Wright dealing with aviation logistics, but there were moments...

The Gulf War had its moments. There was the one when Roger was on the phone speaking with the entire family on four different phones via SATCOM when the air raid sirens went off. Marines were diving into bunkers and Roger was trying to calmly yet QUICKLY get the family off the line. After realizing Roger had hung up the phone, they ran to CNN and saw that the situation dad was in was beginning to unfold before their eyes. There was a news team on the ground, and the missile attack had been covered LIVE. When the "all clear" was sounded, the phone call was resumed and the family was assured that Roger was alright. It should be noted that letters from the family to the war zone dramatically increased at this point.

There was also the time Roger walked out for a smoke at about 0200 just in time to see a missile nail a scud 500 meters over his head. The warhead landed on one side while the missile landed on the other, without detonating. This occurred at an area that was THE ammo dump of the entire theater. Had the warhead detonated, there would have been a crater where the position had been. Roger has a beautiful photo of the scud being broken up.

ON THE HOMEFRONT, the oldest son was hospitalized for surgery while Roger was gone, and once again Glenda dealt with it alone. She had to be satisfied with no more than a SATCOM call from Roger's location, which wasn't much at all, if you think about it.

Roger was brought home from the Gulf during May of 1991 to a family that had given full support, and he retired from active duty as a Gunnery Sergeant of Marines on April Fool's Day, 1992. Shortly thereafter, Glenda completed her education and certification procedures, becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant. She then sought (and found) employment working with the disabled elderly and infirmed.

Retiring from the Corps, Roger worked as a Logistics Management Specialist for a government contractor in Havelock, North Carolina, and during April of 1998, Roger and Glenda learned that Glenda's mother had terminal cancer and not long to live. Glenda, being a CNA, was uniquely capable of assisting in ways other family members could not, so Glenda was told to pack her bags, and flown to North Dakota. Roger wanted to leave at that time, but mom and Glenda both flatly told him not to. While Glenda was there, the decision was made to permanently relocate to North Dakota so while Glenda sat by her mother's side, Roger commenced concluding business in the Carolinas.

Early one morning during May 1998, ALICE LEOTA KELLY KLEESPIE, Glenda's mother passed away, and Roger wasn't able to get there until the day after the funeral. The Smith family set up house in Horace, North Dakota and soon learned this was a BIG mistake. Horace is a small farming community, nothing at all what the family really wanted or needed.

During the last week of June, Roger sent Glenda back to North Carolina to care for a family which required her particular talents. She stayed with that family until October of 1998, when she was once again asked to pack her trash and this time move to Park Rapids, Minnesota, where Roger was busy building a new niche in life.

Glenda arrived in Park Rapids during October 1998, and after a brief period of rest found employment in the medical field doing what she does so well, caring for the ill and infirmed. Roger went to work with a local computer store doing technical support and designing a web page here and there. When the store went under during October of 1999, Roger opened the doors of his own computer store and provided both data systems technical support and web page design to a select clientele in the central Minnesota heartlands. That is, until June of 2000...

Roger was sent to see doc the first part of June and was diagnosed as afflicted with a number of various medical issues, which ultimately led to total/permanent disability as a result of Gulf War service. After some medical advice, much deliberation and soul searching, it was decided that Roger had no choice but to retire. Roger now spends his days doing pretty much whatever he pleases at home.

And what of the three sons?

Roger, Jr. is known to all as "Buddy" and Buddy is a single parent and the father of three children, Austin, Jenna and Gracie. A recent graduate of East Carolina University he spent 13 years in the Corps serving in Kosovo and Iraq. Upon his departure from the Marine Corps, he joined the Army. Serving presently in Korea, he was recently joined by his fiance, Julie, and they were married at the Embassy in Seoul, Korea on 22 July. Julie brings to the family an additional four grandchildren.

Todd is now the married father of four (Lindsay, Isaiah, Mikiala and Emileigh). He is a welder in eastern North Carolina, keeping in constant touch with mom and dad. Dad calls him "Toodles," but don't you DARE.

James turned 28 this past January and lives here eastern North Dakota close to mom and dad. James builds houses for a living, and has two sons, Zachary and Isaac from his first marriage. With his present mate, Tammi, he is also the father of a beautifl daughter they named Lilly.

Now, you have met THE SMITH FAMILY. As the photos are received, they will be posted to this link.

Roger may be the man of the house and give the orders, but GLENDA and the boys are the ones who have constantly seen them through to completion. They are truly the wind beneath his wings. He got the medals, but without HER and the boys he could never have achieved such heights. He saw the world, but it was THEM sitting at home every time he returned with his head in a basket, patiently waiting to sew it back on so he could get up and take off again. He's the one in the spotlight, but without THEM he would never have had the time to even start the projects he has been known to complete. I know.. I'm HIM.

Roger D. Smith,Sr.

Roger D. Smith,Jr.

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