Robert Smith: A Veterans' Advocate

Robert Smith understands veterans.

Smith joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1987 at age 19 and served in the Persian Gulf War as a scout sniper.

"There is a level of dedication that stays with you once you leave the military," said Smith, who comes from a military family.

Today he is the Veterans Services Officer in Jerome County. But his work takes him over many county lines.

"I really have to be plugged in with the vets," he said.

Smith, 47, is a veterans service representative on the Idaho Housing Council. He also works with HUD's Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program -- a joint program between HUD and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs dedicated to ending veteran homelessness.

And until 2013, he was the veteran liaison with AmeriCorps and the U.S. Department of Labor.

"My role is to make a positive impact on a veteran's or surviving spouse's life, whether they are 22 or 92," Smith said.

He said he makes a special connection with each one by sharing some military history with them.

"When you spend time with someone who fought in World War II, sit down with them and listen to their views, it is very humbling," he said.

A training exercise severely injured Smith's left knee. "I didn't want to retire or go on disability," he said. So he stayed active and volunteered with the local VFW. He is now the commander of VFW Post 2136 in Twin Falls.

Smith said he feels lucky to work with veterans every day. Transportation, housing, employment and health are huge issues, he said.

"There's always one more thing we can do to assist veterans and their families," he said.

His mission is to provide faster immediate care on a local level.

"If you do your job, you won't have to do it again," he said.

Smith was raised in Lisle, Ill., and came to Idaho after he left active duty. He has been married to Kim Smith for seven years. He has four children and "two grand-monkeys," he said.

"He's a tremendous asset for the county," said Charlie Howell, county commissioner. "The veterans I visit with all compliment him.

"He conducts himself in a professional manner, but he's a down-home boy. And he makes the best coffee in the courthouse."



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