Times Free Press by Tyler Jett
…Smith had joined the Navy in 2010, Department of Defense officials said, and had been assigned to Chattanooga last August.
On his street in Rossville, Ga., Smith’s neighbors said he came home from work at 4:30 p.m. every day. He rode bicycles with his three daughters. His next-door neighbor, who declined to give her name, said Smith shared a picnic on the Riverwalk with the girls and his wife Thursday morning, just hours before the attack.
He also shared his faith often. Jason Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church of Fort Oglethorpe, said Smith and his family had been attending for a little less than two years.
This October, Smith planned to host Meyer and some other high school friends. They were going to drive to Nashville and watch the Tennessee Titans. Corbin Vance, who was two years behind him at Paulding High, said Smith also planned to come home for Labor Day weekend. Vance first learned about the mass killing in Chattanooga through a Fox News alert on his phone Thursday morning. Later that afternoon, Vance’s brother called to tell him the shooter hit Smith. “Being from a small town, you don’t truly understand these major happenings until it affects one of your own,” he said Saturday. “Then it’s like, ‘Damn.'” Vance doesn’t yet know how to process his former teammate’s death.
Meyer, meanwhile, thought about text messages. Not the ones he received this week, the ones that changed his town. Instead, he thought about the old ones, the ones Smith sent long before he was gone. The Navy petty officer had a goofy side. At any moment, for no reason, Smith used to text Meyer song lyrics. He quoted “Lips of an Angel,” “You’re Beautiful” and “Hit Me Baby One More Time.” On another occasion, though, Smith texted the words to his favorite song. “Sweet Caroline,” he wrote. Good times never seemed so good.