Montgomery County Sen. William C. Smith Jr. (D) will miss the final days of the General Assembly session this year, but his colleagues gave him a standing ovation for his planned departure.
Smith, an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and Senate chairman of the legislative Veterans Caucus, has received orders from the Pentagon to deploy to Afghanistan for Operation Resolute Support on March 29. The senator, who represents District 20 in Montgomery County, said Wednesday that he expects to return home by Thanksgiving.
“A few weeks ago, I got orders to deploy to Afghanistan,” Smith told the chamber. “…A number of you have come up to me and said some really nice things and offered support, so I just want to say thank you for that.”
He received a standing ovation from his colleagues. Moments later, it was announced that Wednesday is Smith’s 37th birthday.
He will report for duty with just over a week left in the 2019 session.
“For those of you counting your votes, you figure March 29, you’re going to be one short over on this side of the aisle,” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said after the announcement.
Smith’s absence could be especially significant on the Judicial Proceedings Committee, where he serves as vice chair.
Smith’s office sent a press release early Wednesday with the news of his deployment. His office will remain operational in Smith’s absence and staff members will continue to handle constituent matters and other concerns, the announcement said.
Smith was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 2014 and was elevated to fill a vacancy in the Senate in 2016, before being elected to a full term last year.
He has been an intelligence officer with the U.S. Naval Reserve since 2009. He has received the National Defense Service Medal; the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; two Joint Meritorious Unit Awards; and a Joint Service Achievement Medal.
When not doing his legislative work, Smith is an attorney in private practice with a focus on national security law and employment discrimination.