A soldier from our region has been killed in Afghanistan, according to his high school wrestling coach who spoke on behalf of the family on Wednesday, July 24. Sgt. Stefan Smith, 23, died in a suicide bomber attack that injured or killed every soldier on his team. The bomber approached the group while riding a donkey in an effort to appear non-threatening.
LaGrange High School wrestling coach, Scooter Weathers, was watching television and saw news of three U.S. soldiers who were killed in action. He prayed that Smith, one of his former wrestlers and a 2008 LaGrange graduate, wasn't one of them.
"The first thing I heard was that there was a man on a donkey who came up to a troop of soldiers and detonated. That was on the news yesterday morning, and that's when I asked, ‘Keep the guy safe.' Then I got the phone call about three hours later."
He said it felt like someone punched him in the stomach when he got that call. Ever since then, Coach Weathers has been devastated, remembering one of the greatest competitors he ever coached.
"Wrestling is a sport that what you put into it is what you get out of it. And, he put everything he had into it. He would do the extra things, go the extra mile, push his teammates. He got to be as good as he did because he worked as hard as he did," said Weathers, "He had always wanted to join the military. His dad was in the military. And it didn't surprise me when he joined. He died doing what he loved doing. And, I'm a better person for knowing him."
Smith was a father of three young children and was scheduled to return home from combat in September.
"He turned out to be a great husband, a great man, and a great father. Those are the three things that I've always said I wanted the wrestlers to turn into. My job was to teach you wrestling, but that was my ultimate goal, and he was all three," said Weathers.
After graduating from LaGrange, Smith was stationed in Fort Stewart.
His funeral was held on August 4th at the New Beginning Church in Ludowici, Ga.
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