Grist Mill Field-Naming Ceremony Honors Fallen Hero
Soccer Field 5 will be dedicated to Lt. Col. Gary F. Smith, who perished at the Pentagon in September 11 attack.
Lt. Col. Gary F. Smith was an “Army brat” who coached all four of his daughters in the Lee-Mount Vernon Soccer Club.
It’s only fitting that soccer field 5 at Mount Vernon’s Grist Mill Park will be renamed in honor of Smith on Saturday afternoon.
The Smith family is working with the Fairfax County Park Foundation to secure grants to fund a full-size turf field and to install a drainage system for the field. If this project is successful, it would fill the need for a turf field in the Mount Vernon area.
“The community needs this artificial field,” said Ann Smith, Gary's widow, who still resides in the area.
Lt. Col. Smith served in the Army for 24 years and served in the Vietnam War. The Smiths have lived in the Mount Vernon area since 1984. During the 1980s, their daughters, now grown, were interested in playing soccer. He took it upon himself to learn about coaching soccer and coached his daughters in the Lee-Mount Vernon Soccer Club and when they lived overseas.
“Gary bought a book about coaching soccer and coached one group of girls for over 12 seasons,” said Ann Smith. “When you coach youth sports, you can really make an impact on your community. We are hoping to continue his positive legacy by improving this field.”
Lt. Col. Smith was the civilian chief of Army Retirees at the time of his death. He was attending a meeting at the Pentagon when American Airlines Flight 77 struck on September 11. He perished in the attack.
“I don’t question. It just happened and he was there,” Ann recalled.
“What helped me through was that the county offered a grief support group free of charge [for spouses]. It helped all of us so much.”
Ann Smith now vounteers for Haven, a grief support organization in Northern Virginia.
“I was given a lot of charity, and I feel like I should pay it forward,” she said of her volunteer work.
Ann Smith approached Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland about raising funds for a turf field at Grist Mill Park.
"He said, 'We cannot not do this,'" recalled Ann.
A capital campaign would provide $1 million in funding for the project.
The Park Authority Board won’t vote on the project until the funding has been lined up, which could take several months, said Brett Kenney, Supervisor Hyland's chief of staff.