A Family Tradition

Retired Cmdr. Carl R. Smith swears in his daughter, Corrie N. Smith, on Feb. 7, 2013. Cmdr. Smith served more than 20 years in the Coast Guard. (U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo)

Retired Cmdr. Carl R. Smith swears in his daughter, Corrie N. Smith, on Feb. 7, 2013. Cmdr. Smith served more than 20 years in the Coast Guard. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Story by Petty Officer 3rd Class David Micallef

“I went to Coast Guard boot camp and there was a moment of clarity and everything just clicked,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Corrie N. Smith. “Standing in the cold in my oversized foul weather parka, I took a deep breath. It smelled like my childhood. It reminded me of growing up on our boats and all of the experiences with my father — I knew everything was going to be OK.”

Smith’s father, retired Coast Guard Cmdr. Carl R. Smith, and his wife Susan adopted and raised Corrie.

In February 2013, surrounded by family, friends and fellow Coast guardsmen, Cmdr. Smith swore in his daughter at the Hampton Roads recruiting office in Chesapeake, Virginia.

“It was an emotional, proud day — very exciting,” said Cmdr. Smith. “There’s an extra bond there now. We can share stories and laugh and the rest of the family just stares at us because they just don’t get it. It’s great.”

Cmdr. Smith served in the Coast Guard for more than 20 years. As a cadet, Cmdr. Smith set sail on the Barque Eagle, America’s only active military tall ship in service. The Barque Eagle will be Corries’s first temporary duty assignment aboard a cutter as a public affairs reservist this summer.

“I’m excited about my tour on the Eagle,” said Corrie. “Just knowing the history, where the ship has been and how it molds future Coast Guardsmen is a true honor. Hearing my father describe his time on the Eagle, knowing that I get to walk the same path, I can’t wait to come home and tell him my own sea stories.”

Growing up as a military brat is difficult. Constantly moving every few years puts a heavy burden on military families and especially their children. The process of gaining and losing friends is hard on everyone and it doesn’t get easier.

As a child, when her dad would leave it was hard for Corrie. He missed birthdays, holidays and important milestones that can never be made up or recreated. Corrie appreciates why her dad was gone a lot and the reasons behind his sacrifices have made an impact on Corrie.

“Now it’s me leaving my friends and family to serve in the Coast Guard,” said Corrie. “Understanding how difficult that decision is but at the same time how rewarding and educational it is — I understand now why my father chose the path he did.”

The path of the Smith family was a well-traveled one. They had stints in Virginia, Puerto Rico, Miami and Charleston before Cmdr. Smith retired. All of the areas brought new experiences for the family and a lifetime full of memories for Corrie. As a youth, Corrie said she had the opportunity to meet a lot of different people and go on quite a few missions with her dad. She rode on a C-130 as a toddler, snorkeled off the coast of Puerto Rico and piloted ships at the age of 10.

“OK, I sat in the captain’s lap and steered,” said Corrie giggling.

It’s evident Cmdr. Smith has always wanted the best for his daughter. He raised her to be disciplined and instilled a strong foundation of beliefs that has molded her over the years into the person she is today.

“I just raised her the way any parent would raise their child,” said Cmdr. Smith. “With the same beliefs and morals and holding her to the highest standard.”

Cmdr. Smith has been Corrie’s mentor since adopting her. When he would get home from deployments, Corrie would ask him about his trip, mostly interested in the bad guys. Story time was more than just stories about ships and sailors, it was Cmdr. Smith’s way to teach his daughter important life lessons she would carry with her.

“I’ve been hearing sea stories all my life,” said Corrie. “And of course there is always a lesson to go along with his stories. My dad has always made sure to ask and answer, ‘And do you know why we did it that way?’”

To this day Cmdr. Smith continues to pass along knowledge to make sure grown-up Corrie is ready for any mission.

“I got to do some really cool things and I got to do them with some really great people,” said Cmdr. Smith. “I’m very excited that Corrie will be able to experience some of the same things I got to do and see. The Eagle was my first ship in August of 1968, and now it will be her first ship 47 years later.”

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