Although he wore a uniform and carried himself with military bearing, he was not intimidating to the young women he coached in soccer at parks in Fairfax County, VA. Family, friends, former players and local officials gathered together to remember Retired Lt. Col. Gary F. Smith, United States Army. A field naming ceremony took place in April 2012 at rectangular field #5 at Grist Mill Park in the Mt. Vernon District. See the aerial view map.
His wife Ann recalled his passion for sports. "Gary loved sports so much — all through his youth, and far into adulthood. He coached so many teams, including our daughters', both when we lived overseas and here at home. In the 1980s, our girls were interested in playing soccer. Gary checked a book out of the library about coaching soccer and coached one group of girls for over 12 seasons. When you coach youth sports, you can really make an impact on your community. We are hoping to continue his positive legacy by improving this field."
Ann also recalled his service to country adding, "Gary cherished his Soldier's Medal, which he received for heroism. A helicopter he was riding in in Vietnam crashed and caught fire. He went back to the wreck, and despite the intense heat and danger of explosion, rescued another soldier trapped inside. He was always proud of serving his country." Lt. Col. Smith, a civilian employee of the Army at the time of his death was attending a meeting at the Pentagon when American Airlines Flight 77 struck.
As a soccer coach, he is remembered fondly for his calm demeanor and soothing voice. He coached Lee-Mount Vernon Soccer Association teams that played at Grist Mill Park. Ann decided that providing a positive place where young people can play and learn teamwork will be a fitting tribute to honor the life of her late husband.
The Lt. Col. Gary F. Smith Memorial Field synthetic turf conversion is completed. This newly improved field is being enjoyed by many soccer players.
The Honoring America’s Veterans program is also supported by donations to the Park Foundation that honor the life of Lt. Col. Gary F. Smith. On both Veterans Day and Memorial Day, veterans, active-duty military personnel and their families receive complimentary admission at the Park Authority's nine Rec Centers and lake front parks. Families may participate as well in drop-in fitness classes, use of pools and spas, fitness rooms, gyms, racquetball courts, boat rides, mini golf, carousels, camping and train rides. Facilities vary by park location.
See all offerings on the Veterans Day 2023 Flyer!
It’s the Park Authority’s way of saying “thank you” for service to our country. This special outreach program is made possible through generous contributions to the Fairfax County Park Foundation from individual donors and organizations.