The shocking attack on military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee, claimed another life early Saturday morning: a 24-year old petty officer and father who loved baseball and had just re-enlisted on shore duty after three years on a big deck amphib.
Logistics Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Randall Smith joined the Navy on November 8, 2010, and left for recruit training at Great Lakes, Illinois, the same day.
Smith died at 2 a.m. Saturday, succumbing to extensive damage to his liver and colon, said his grandmother Darlene Proxmire. He had undergone multiple surgeries since the Thursday shooting.
"He was just an awesome young man who loved his wife and three girls," Proxmire told Navy Times Saturday.
But Smith, she said, also had great affection for the Navy and serving his country.
"He enjoyed the Navy and serving in the Navy," she said. "Just here in the past week or two he had re-upped for another tour."
Proxmire said that he'd graduated from high school in Paulding, Ohio, in 2008 and that his first love was playing baseball.
"He was good enough to get a college scholarship to college in Defiance, Ohio, but he hurt his shoulder and couldn't play," she recalled.
In a statement released by Defiance College July 18, the school confirmed that Smith had attended the school for a short time beginning in the fall and had participated in autumn baseball exercises.
"Defiance College extends its deepest condolences to the family of Navy Petty Officer Smith," the release said. "His family and all of the families of victims of the senseless attack on our military in Chattanooga are in our thoughts and prayers."
Navy Times managed to reach Derek Woodley, the college's head baseball coach who said the school does recruit players for their team, but are forbidden by National Collegiate Athletic Association rules from giving athletic scholarships.
"I was not on the staff that recruited Randall," Woodley said. "He did participate for a limited time in the fall but did not participate in the spring — it is certainly a tragedy and do express my condolences to the family."
As Smith moved on, Proxmire said, he decided to follow in the footsteps of his paternal grandfather, Donald Smith, now deceased, who Proximire said had spent a long time in the Navy, though she couldn't recall exactly how long.
"His dad's dad was a Navy man," Proxmire said. "He really hoped that Randall would join the Navy and when baseball was no longer an option for Randall, I think he joined the Navy because of his grandpa."
Navy sources say that Smith was on active duty in what the Navy calls reserve full-time support — FTS in Navy lingo. These sailors go to sea just as any other sailor does, but when eligible for shore duty, they are assigned to Navy Reserve operational support centers around the country. They are responsible for the training and administration of Navy Reserve units.
And from his Navy records, he seems to have been off to a good start in the Navy, sources tell Navy Times.
Graduating from boot camp in January 15, 2011, Smith's first stop was logistic's specialist "A" school at the Naval Technical Training Command, Meridian, Mississippi, graduating nearly five months later on May 9.
His first and only fleet duty station was on the amphibious assault ship Wasp reporting on May 26, 2011, serving onboard for just over three years, leaving on July 25, 2014, and reporting to NOSC Chattanooga on August 15.
While Smith was on Wasp, the ship didn't deploy overseas, but instead spent much time in maintenance availabilities as well as conducting operations and participating in exercises along the east coast and in the Caribbean.
During his time onboard the ship, Wasp spent much time at sea testing the Marine Corps F-35B Joint Strike Fighter variant and was at the scene of the first landing of the aircraft on October 3, 2011.
Wasp returned to the New York area on October 30 to participate in disaster relief efforts after Hurricane Sandy. The ship spent much of Smith's last year in maintenance periods, receiving upgrades to allow her to better support Marine F-35B operations.
Along with being a qualified Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist, Smith is also qualified to wear the Navy Battle "E" Ribbon, The National Defense Service Medal and the Pistol Marksmanship Ribbon.
Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.