In spring of 2006, L.J. Smoak was about to graduate from High school. At that time, the U.S. was heavily engaged in combat operations in Iraq & Afghanistan and the public was growing weary of the war in Iraq as media told the story of growing sectarian violence. In 2006, the Marines in Western Iraq’s Al Anbar province were taking some of the heaviest casualties since the beginning of the Global War on Terrorism. It was in the face of this that L.J. Smoak made a decision to enlist in the United States Marine Corps through the delayed entry program. LJ left for boot camp the summer after graduation.
From 2007-2010, L.J. served with Combat Logistics Battalion 8 stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC. In 2008 he deployed with them to Al Anbar Province Iraq where he was part of operations that significantly contributed to the stabilization of Western Iraq.
In 2009, after returning from Iraq, he was deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Until then, the Marine Corps had been focused primarily in Iraq. But in 2008-2009 the Marines were sent to clear, hold and rebuild the Taliban stronghold of Helmand Province in Southern Afghanistan. L.J., along with his fellow Marines conducted operations against the Taliban in a highly kinetic environment to the point where he earned a Combat Action Ribbon. Despite the austere and dangerous conditions L.J. returned home safely having contributed to the success of key operations against the Taliban.
In August of 2010, (then Corporal Smoak) was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps. He immediately obtained employment with a defense contractor where he continued to contribute to the country’s national defense. While working with this organization he spent a year back in Afghanistan and then 5 months in Romania. In early July of 2015, L.J. returned home from Romania and continued to work as a government contractor.
On Saturday, August 29, 2015 L.J. was enjoying a summer day back at home with friends on a boat in the Stono River in Charleston, SC. His friends were treading water and swimming near the bow of the boat and L.J. decided to join them & dove off of the stern into the water. Not aware of the sandbar behind the boat, L.J. hit head on and the impact broke his neck. Doctors reported L.J. should not have survived the accident. The severe injury paralyzed him from the neck down.
After reading about L.J.'s story Micki reached out to him on behalf of The Walking With Anthony Foundation. This led to L.J. becoming the beneficiary of our 6th Annual Charity Celebrity Golf Tournament & Dinner in 2018, where he was granted $10,000 to help with recovery costs.