The life and service of Jerry L. Smith was honored Thursday afternoon, as the public, law enforcement and other first responders from across the country gathered to say farewell to the Nebraska State Patrol Trooper.
Daughter Mechelle Smith told those in the Western Nebraska Community College gymnasium her father was humble, kind, dedicated, strong, and fearless, and all he ever wanted to do was to protect and serve.
Today’s service combined a Christian funeral service, with Father Robert Manasek from St. Francis Episcopal Church presiding, as well as full military and law enforcement honors. The memorial celebrated Smith’s life, his nearly 25 years in the U.S. Army and four years of service with the Nebraska State Patrol.
Following his Army career, which included two tours of Iraq and being awarded a Bronze Star, Smith became the oldest recruit to graduate from the NSP Basic Recruit Camp at the age of 47.
For those who knew little about his past, Mechelle Smith said her father’s path in life was set up for failure, “However, he went on to break the mold of his early family life and through hard work became the honorable man everyone knew today”. She shared anecdotes highlighting how he was dedicated to his wife, children, family, community and country.
Trooper Smith died from injuries suffered in a traffic accident west of Bridgeport Thursday, June 20, 2019. Today, he was honored by hundreds of people lining Avenue B and 27th Street, American flags in hand, as the State Patrol procession passed, blue ribbons tied to sign posts, trees and light poles along the way.
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts said while he could not say what God’s plan was with regard to his tragic accident and untimely death, but he could say God had a plan for Jerry’s life, and Jerry knew it. “It was a life of service, whether it was in the military serving in the U.S. Army, protecting us overseas, or serving in the Nebraska State Patrol, protecting his neighbors here at home.”
Honors for Trooper Smith included a 21-gun salute, and the playing of taps, traditions of both the Patrol and the military. His flag-draped casket was accompanied by six pall-bearers, three of the NSP Basic Training classmates, and three from the Army.
NSP Superintendent Col. John Bolduc said Trooper Smith was all about the team in his recruit camp, making things better, and he didn’t have anything to prove to anyone. “He had been there, done that, but he didn’t wear it on his sleeve. He was a humble man, stayed behind the scenes and he worked through problems. He was a mentor, role model and a guide.”
The service concluded with a call over the NSP communications channel, declaring Trooper Smith’s end of watch. “North Platte, 373” rang out three times, followed by “Attention all units, Trooper Jerry Smith, badge #373, has entered in final rest on June 20, 2019. The Nebraska State Patrol is grateful for his four years of service to the State of Nebraska. May his soul rest in eternal peace.”