North Dakota Army National Guard Sgt. Keith L. Smette

North Dakota Army National Guard Sgt. Keith L. Smette

Died January 24, 2004 serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom

25, of Fargo, N.D.; assigned to the 957th Engineer Company, 130th Engineer Brigade, Army National Guard, Bismarck, N.D.; attached to Task Force All American; died Jan. 24 when his convoy was attacked by an improvised explosive device north of Fallujah, Iraq.
North Dakota State University to set up scholarship for Keith Smette
Associated Press

FARGO, N.D. — North Dakota State University plans to honor Keith Smette at a memorial service and set up a scholarship in his name. Smette, 25, of Makoti, and Kenneth Hendrickson, 41, of Bismarck, were killed Jan. 24 when their convoy was hit by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Both were sergeants with the National Guard’s 957th Multi-Role Bridge Company, based in Bismarck. Smette was a student at NDSU. The scholarship likely will be awarded to students majoring in health or physical education, which were Smette’s areas of interest, said Virginia Clark Johnson, dean of the NDSU College of Human Development and Education. “It’s a wonderful way to recognize and remember somebody,” she said. Smette volunteered to go to Iraq in January 2003 and withdrew from classes at NDSU that February. Student body president Dan Mostad said the scholarship idea arose as students were planning memorial service for Smette. “I believe it’s one of the greatest ways to honor a person,” he said. Members of Smette’s family plan to attend the memorial service, set for 2 p.m. Monday in the NDSU Memorial Union Ballroom. Hundreds gather at high school to mourn soldier slain in Iraq MAKOTI, N.D. — A month before he was killed in Iraq, Keith Smette wrote home saying the United States was helping free an oppressed people. “Over here in Iraq, we are doing an important job — trying to secure a better future for the people of Iraq,” Smette said in the letter dated Christmas Eve.
Hundreds of people gathered on Feb. 3 at the high school where Smette had once attended classes, to remember his love of family and country and to praise him as a hero. Smette, 25, a sergeant with the North Dakota National Guard’s 957th Multi-Role Bridge Company, died Jan. 24, when a bomb exploded next to his vehicle on a road north of Fallujah, in central Iraq.
The North Dakota State University senior had volunteered for duty in Iraq. His sister, Sarah, who now lives in Wisconsin, served in the Army. His younger brother, Robert, also was a member of the 957th in Iraq. “He (Keith) was going over to Iraq to look after his little brother,” said Smette’s father, Douglas. “It’s tough. It’s been real tough.” Tuesday’s funeral drew more than 500 people to the high school gymnasium in Makoti, a town of about 140 southwest of Minot. Smette’s family was given the Legion of Merit award, the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star on his behalf. Robert Smette, serving as a pallbearer, choked back tears as he stood at attention. Smette’s mother, Charlotte, was limp with emotion, often leaning on her husband and daughter for support during the hourlong service. Maj. Gen. Mike Haugen, the North Dakota Guard commander, had tears in his eyes as he talked about Keith Smette’s service to his country. “He carried on a tradition and a heritage of volunteer service,” Haugen said. “He went off to free an oppressed people. How many soldiers go to war for that? “He was a soldier,” Haugen said. “He was a fine American young man.” Gov. John Hoeven described Smette as “a soldier, a student, a sportsman, a son and a brother, and he was truly an American hero … All of North Dakota mourns the death of a native son.” Keith Smette had come back to Makoti in November to visit his family. He stayed in contact throughout his tour of duty with pictures and letters. “I think it’s going to be great to be a part of this whole experience,” Smette wrote in a letter to his family last year. “I really feel as though we are helping the world, and most importantly, the Iraqi people. I just hope they feel the same way.” The two North Dakota Guard units deployed in Iraq — the Bismarck-based 957th and the Fargo-based 142nd Engineer Battalion — together have about 775 soldiers. The Jan. 24 attack also killed Kenneth Hendrickson, 41, of Bismarck, a staff sergeant with the 957th. His funeral was held Monday. Smette and Hendrickson were the latest of three North Dakota Guard members killed in combat in Iraq. Spc. Jon Fettig, 30, of Dickinson, died last July when attackers fired rocket-propelled grenades at his truck. Fettig was part of a Dickinson-based engineering unit but volunteered to fill a vacancy in the 957th. Members of the North Dakota Guard’s 141st Engineering Combat Battalion, with units in Bismarck, Dickinson, Hettinger, Jamestown, Mott, Valley City and Williston, are expected to head to Iraq later this month. “Our men and women, they’re trained to do their jobs,” Hoeven said after the funeral service. “They’re doing a fine job in Iraq. We want them home, safe and as soon as we can get them back here.” Haugen, in an interview, said, “Soldiers and their families — everyone has had a sacrifice. Unfortunately, some of them have done more than is really fair.” Colleagues, friends, remember Keith Smette
WILLISTON, N.D. — Bob Stancel was Keith Smette’s platoon sergeant for about two years in the North Dakota Army National Guard. “One thing really sticks in my mind — that he was a good instructor, caught on fast and he helped the younger troops learn,” Stancel said. Smette, 25, of Makoti, and Kenneth Hendrickson, 41, of Bismarck, were killed Jan. 24 when their convoy came under attack in Iraq. Both were members of the Guard’s 957th Multi-Role Bridge company, based in Bismarck. Stancel, who is now the chief deputy for the Williams County Sheriff’s Department, said he saw Smette shortly before the 957th deployed last year. Smette’s death has been tough for him. “Two days ago I couldn’t have talked about it,” he said on Jan. 28. A friend advised him: “March on.” Stancel said he know both Keith Smette and his brother, Robert, also a member of the 957th in Iraq. After Keith’s death, the Guard said Robert would be sent home on emergency leave. “What struck me about both of them is they were very well liked in the unit,” Stancel said. “They had a number of friends.” The last time Anders Aasen heard from Keith Smette was in August, when the two chatted over the Internet. Anders, a Norwegian exchange student, was starting his third year at the University of North Dakota. Aasen said he, too, found the news of Smette’s death hard to take. “I just got some pictures of him from Iraq before Christmas,” he said. Smette was enrolled in UND’s medical program when Anders arrived from Moss, Norway. “A bunch of us from the dorm used to hang out all of the time,” Aasen said. UND officials said Smette attended the school briefly in the fall of 2001, majoring in pre-occupational therapy. He eventually transferred to North Dakota State University in Fargo. Robert Smette also attended UND. -Associated Press

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