The annual September 11th observance holds special meaning for one area lawmaker.

Rep. James Smith, whose S.C. House district stretches from Northwest Richland and the St. Andrews area to downtown Columbia, has fought the Taliban head-on.

A Captain in the S.C. Army National Guard, Smith’s 12-month combat tour in Afghanistan makes him one of a small number of public officials nationwide to have served the U.S. in battle. It has also shaped his outlook on civic service, as well as his appreciation for those who sacrificed before him.

Smith had served eight years as a JAG officer in the S.C. Army National Guard when a 2001 visit to Ground Zero in New York stirred something in him.

“It had a profound impact on me,” he recalls. He later resigned his officer commission, enlisted as an infantryman and, at age 37, began basic training.

In February 2007, Smith was deployed as an infantry officer as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, serving in remote areas of Afghanistan training local anti-terrorist police. He endured Taliban fire, narrow misses by RPG explosions and was wounded by an IED. His service was recognized with the Bronze Star, Combat Infantryman’s Badge and Purple Heart.

In the Legislature, Smith has championed issues facing veterans and active military. He also works to pass along the values that led him to volunteer to go to war – the ideals of patriotism, love-of-country, and service-over-self, especially among young people.

“My family and I are only one of many in a long-line who has served and sacrificed. I know that the freedoms we enjoy today are provided by the sacrifices made by others who went before us,” Smith says. “It is up to all of us to work and live lives worthy of that sacrifice and give to the next generation to do the same.”

“The annual September 11th observances across the country offer an opportunity to remember the innocent lives lost that day and to rededicate our lives in service to each other and to our future.”