ROCKVILLE – State Sen. William Smith Jr. (D-20), who chairs the senate’s Veterans Caucus, is being deployed to Afghanistan in about six weeks.
He expects to miss the last 10 days of the current legislative session but does not believe that will be a problem.
Smith is a naval intelligence officer with the U.S. Navy Reserves, where he serves as a lieutenant. He participated in the U.S. Navy Direct Commission Officers program when he was in law school.
While overseas, Smith will participate in Operation Resolute Support, a NATO-led mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces and institutions, whose goal is to fight terrorism.
“I think about it. It’s definitely on the top of my mind,” Smith said of his deployment. “You are in Annapolis in the halls of our historic capitol building, and then, in a few weeks, you are some place completely different.”
Smith is the father of a 10-month-old daughter. He called it “kind of a silver lining” that she most likely will not remember his absence.
Smith, who represents parts of Silver Spring and Takoma Park, said he is not the first Maryland legislator to be deployed. He pointed to now-U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown (D-4), a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. The aviator and JAG officer was deployed to Iraq in 2004, where he earned a Bronze Star.
Sen. J. B. Jennings, a Republican who represents Baltimore and Harford counties, has been mobilized with the Air National Guard. He is a loadmaster on the C-27J Spartan, a military transport aircraft.
Smith, 37, has been overseas for training, but this marks his first experience on active duty, he said.
Before heading to Afghanistan, Smith intends to focus on passage of an End of Life Option in Maryland, more commonly known as Death with Dignity.
He also hopes to enact legislation that will stop Maryland residents from being detained without charges by federal authorities, especially agents of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He also is working on fair housing legislation.
Smith expects to return to Maryland around Thanksgiving and stressed that his staff will continue helping his constituents throughout his deployment.
Smith, an attorney with the Solomon Law Firm, also serves as vice chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
When learning of Smith’s deployment, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan tweeted, “We feel an immeasurable sense of gratitude to him & all of the men and women who willingly put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms & preserve our way of life for the next generation. Lt. Smith, thank you for your service and dedication to our state and our nation.”
Hogan also tweeted, “Our prayers and full support go to Senator Will Smith and his family.”
Also sending out good wishes was Maryland Democratic Party Chair Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, who sent out a statement: “We are incredibly proud of Senator Will Smith for his service to our state, country and democracy. As an intelligence officer and member of the U.S. Navy Reserve, Senator Smith serves as a shining example of true public service. We wish him a successful deployment and pray for his safe return.”
Smith was elected to the senate at the end of 2016. He replaced Jamie Raskin, who then became a U.S. congressman.
Prior to becoming a state senator, Smith served as a delegate from the same district.
He has received the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, two Joint Meritorious Unit Awards and a Joint Service Achievement Medal.