Monday, May 26, 2003

Survivor of Iraqi bomb tells church
of his faith



By Erica Solvig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MILFORD - Army Ranger Sgt. Kyle Smith had a gut feeling about the white SUV that rounded the hill and drove up to his team in western Iraq April 3. But after a clean sweep of the vehicle, two of his fellow Special Forces soldiers decided to help the pregnant woman inside and calm another female passenger.

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With his wife Kristina beside him, Army Ranger Sgt. Kyle Smith tells the congregation at First Baptist Church in Milford of his ordeal in Iraq.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
Then came the explosion.

"I remember a giant, hot, orange fireball came toward me," Smith said.

The suicide bombing killed three coalition soldiers and severely injured Smith and another soldier."I was hurled back 20 feet. ... Everything happened so fast," Smith said.

Smith and his wife of a year, Cristina, shared their story Sunday before hundreds of people at First Baptist Church in Milford. It was the highlight of a patriotic service that also honored all veterans in the audience and featured a Georgia-based quartet and choir.

Standing in uniform next to his wife, Smith said it was a miracle that he was not killed in the bombing. On that morning, his wife said she woke up, put her hand on his pillow and prayed that he would be safe.

Smith was part of a special operations team with "orders to destroy anything being used by the Iraqi army."

"In times like these, I get excited," Smith said. "I don't want to die, but I know if I do, I'll go to heaven."

The white SUV they stopped April 3, carrying a male driver and two female passengers, was among many they had checked that day.

But underneath this SUV was 100 pounds of C4 explosives.

Smith was standing away from the vehicle and wearing protective gear when it exploded. The blast sent him flying into rocks, dislocated his shoulder and wounded him in 23 places. At least two pieces of shrapnel came within a centimeter of major arteries.

"That's the last thing I remember," said Smith.

When the phone rang at their Georgia home, Cristina - whose family is from Goshen Township and members of First Baptist - heard the news she was dreading: Her husband had been injured.

Smith was airlifted to a field hospital 45 minutes away, where he woke up a day-and-a-half later next to a fellow survivor.

"I'm here standing today because Jesus still performs miracles today," Smith said. "There's no way I should be alive today."

He still faces more surgery.

Eventually, he and his wife want to return to the Cincinnati area. He swears to keep alive the memory of his "brothers" who died that day.

"In a way I'm thankful for my scars," Smith said. "They'll never let me forget."

E-mail esolvig@enquirer.com




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