Family remembers Vietnam POW from Kentucky (Dewey Smith)

The word hero gets thrown around a lot. A Fairdale family has no doubt it fits Colonel Dewey Lee Smith. The former prisoner of war died this week at age 85. His death comes after a life spent with the memories of five tortuous years in North Vietnam and the positives he managed to bring from that.

“A very wonderful man, a very wonderful husband and a father,” said Elaine Smith, Dewey Smith’s wife, using the type of words you use to remember a loved one lost.

For Elaine and her children, words of memorial don’t quite grasp the magnitude of what happened during Dewey Lee Smith’s life.

“He was very much a person who liked home, especially after going through what he did in North Vietnam,” Elaine said.

The medals on the wall hint at it. His Silver Star citation spells it out. It reads, in part, “while a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.”

In June 1967, Smith was piloting a U.S. Air Force F-105 was shot out of the sky. For close to three years after that no one knew what happened to him. Smith was listed as missing in action.

“Then his name came out with a list of other names from a fellow prisoner of war who was given the OK to come home, so to speak,” Elaine said.

For almost six years, Dewey Smith was held as a prisoner of war.

“Over five years and nine months, he was tortured and received numerous wounds from being tortured, both psychologically and physically, he never broke and divulged that information,” said Jonathan Smith, his son.

When Smith came home, instead of being reluctant to talk about what had happened, he used it, spreading a message to churches and veterans groups.

“It was love and hope,” said Joshua Smith, another son of Dewey’s. “He had a big strong love for his country. He had love for his family, which gave him the hope to push forward.”

All of that is part of Smith’s legacy, but his family says it’s not the most important part.

“I think his legacy will lie in his children and his grandchildren and the fact that he served his country,” said Elaine, “he served it in a way that all of us are extremely proud.”

Three of Dewey Smith’s sons followed his lead and joined the military.

Visitation for Col. Dewey Lee Smith is Friday, Feb. 13 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Fairdale McDaniel Funeral Home. Burial is Saturday, Feb. 14 at 1 p.m. at Bethany Cemetery on Dixie Highway.

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