Troy Smith was a Kroger grocery bagger when he enlisted in the United States Marines in May 1988. For his father, a police officer and former Marine, the decision wasn't surprising in the least.
"My father knew how I felt," says Troy, who as an adolescent reverently donned his father's old cameo jackets and marine shirts. "He knew in his heart that once I graduated from high school, I was going to join the Marines."
Troy's grandfather, a former Army serviceman, had done much the same. The military was in the Smith family's blood, a legacy carried on from father to son.
"The way my dad was, the way he held himself and presented himself, the way he wore his uniform... I wanted to wear it like he wore it."
THE PERSIAN GULF
Troy spent nine weeks after boot camp learning every aspect of radio satellite tech. He was subsequently transferred to Camp Pendleton, where he joined the 9th Communication Battalion. That was the middle of 1990.
Troy's Battalion was operating in Turkey later that year. His superiors told him to take leave shortly before August because, in Troy's words, "they said we would be gone for a while.
"I came home on leave and my dad picked me up and asked if I knew what was going on in Saudi Arabia. I had no idea. We stopped at a newspaper stand and grabbed a USA Today and it said the First Marine Division had been activated. I said, 'Dad, that's me.' "
That night Troy got a call from his platoon sergeant, and the next day he was back at Camp Pendleton. He deployed in August 1990, at the very beginning of Operation Desert Shield.
He spent the duration of Desert Shield (August 1990 - January 1991) providing radio communication. In Desert Storm (January - February 1991), he served as security with the Marine Corp infantry.
A JOB WAITING
When Troy returned from Iraq -- a drawn-out process that took longer than the war itself -- he had a job waiting for him. He returned to Kroger, where he worked as a produce clerk. Now he's the grocery manager at the Blanchester location.
The aspects of discipline and leadership that he learned in the Marines translated well to the workplace. "You learn how to deal with people, to respect what others need and to get respect back from them," Troy says. "People come up to me and say, 'You must be in the military.' They say it's the way I hold myself and deal with people."
Troy learned that in the Marines. He put it to practice at Kroger.
HONORING OUR HEROES
Since 2010, Kroger has raised more than $14 million for the USO to help support its mission of strengthening America's military service members by keeping them connected to family, home, and country throughout their service. That $14 million is the largest amount ever donated to the USO.
Many of those donations occurred via Kroger's Honoring Our Heroes program, a multi-faceted campaign to raise funds for the USO and raise awareness for the military and veterans. The website provides an avenue for showcasing the stories of Kroger associates who are active duty, reservists, or veterans.
Customers can support the USO through a direct donation on the website or they can visit any Kroger store to donate.
Troy Smith is one of three associates Kroger is highlighting this month on Local12.com for their exemplary service and dedication to keeping this nation safe.
For more information about Kroger's Honoring Our Heroes campaign, visit the Honoring Our Heroes website.