AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - Out of 40,000 people, Marine of the Year has been awarded to native Augustan, Master Sergeant Bryan D. Smith. MSGT Smith accepted his award on September 25, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he currently works training Midshipmen at Tulane University. This is an award that MSGT Smith never dreamed of. He said, “Growing up in South Augusta, I didn’t really see much of a future.”
After graduating high school by “the hair on his chin," and working construction, MSGT Smith decided to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. “I joined the Marine Corp, more out of necessity than 'this is what I want to do with my life.” After serving for the past 19 years, he has seen quite an accomplished career.
MSGT Smith has been on two tours and two relief missions. He has served as a Drill Instructor, Experienced Drill Instructor, Chief Drill Instructor and Company 1st Sergeant at Parris Island. Finally, in his time at Tulane University, he has helped Midshipmen attain $700,000 in scholarships, and two of his Midshipmen have received the Medal of Honor.
MSGT Smith was submitted for the award by his superior, Captain Meyers. He said he didn’t want to be nominated for the award at all. “I like to stay behind the scenes and work hard,” he said. However, the list of nominees was broken down until MSGT Smith was the only name left. When he found out he was getting the award, he almost could not believe it. He said, “The Marine of the Year, I always thought was this amazing Marine that holds all of these attributes that are unattainable, and I found out that’s not the truth.”
MSGT Smith said he did not get this honor because of his work in 2017 alone. “I haven’t changed in 16 years. I do the same thing day in and day out. To get this award after 19 years of service, doing the same thing I’ve always done, it made me feel like it’s a congratulations for my entire career.” A career that he recognizes has not gone without sacrifice. “There have been things I’ve sacrificed over the years, but I think the biggest one is when it comes to relationships.”
Tarnya Irby, his mother, said, “He’s never married, has no children. You know, he’s married to the Marine Corps.” She added that the kids he teaches at Tulane are like his own. He said, “Being able to be there for them, being able to inspire and hold them accountable, it’s wonderful and it gives me a sense of purpose.” Looking back at the personal sacrifices he’s made, MSGT Smith said he would not change a thing. "Put your Marines first. Put your mission first. You come second,” he said. “I would gladly do it all over again the same exact way.”
He said he would not be where he is today without each person who pushed him along the way. He said, “I absolutely could not accomplish the mission without them. They’ve been essential to this award.” While he gives credit to others, his mother said there’s no one better for Marine of the Year. She said, “He loves God. He loves his country. He loves his family. This is a way that he can do things that make a difference in the world, and that’s Bryan.”
MSGT Smith recently reenlisted for two more years. He finds out if he is being granted a promotion to Master Gunnery Sergeant in the next few months.