Local News

Officer Blinded in Combat Has No Trouble Seeing His Future as a Leader

Posted October 23, 2007 8:50 p.m. EDT

— Army Capt. Scott Smiley came face-to-face with a suicide bomber in Iraq. There was an explosion, and Smiley lost his sight – but he hasn't lost his vision to be a leader.

“Army Times” magazine’s 2007 Soldier of the Year is now a graduate student at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and is intent on building a bright future for himself and his family.

Smiley was leading a platoon in Mosul, Iraq, on April 6, 2005.

"I came across a vehicle that looked suspicious,” Smiley said. It looked wrong to him because it was weighted down with explosives. The driver was a car bomber.

Smiley had shot once to stop the car.

"I shot another round, and he just exploded and disintegrated, and I received shrapnel in both of my eyes," he explained.

"Initially, I thought, ‘Blind? What can he do? How are we gonna go to a movie? How are we gonna be normal?" Tiffany Smiley said. Her husband felt the same way, he said.

He had "those feelings of helplessness and basically being dependent on everyone and having the idea that I could not do anything myself," Smiley said.

He would prove himself wrong. A year later, he decided to get a master’s degree in business administration.

"He was feeling like he needed another challenge, which kind of blew me away," Tiffany Smiley said. Now, Smiley has two years at Fuqua. Then, he wants to teach at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

"All of the books, almost every one of my classes, a book is provided on digital CD,” Smiley said.

He'll earn his degree in 2009. That day, like the birth of their son in May, will be a date to remember.

The CDs for Smiley’s books come from a national non-profit organization called Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFBD). It recruits volunteers to read textbooks for visually impaired students of all ages.