Silver Cross Mother proud of son Nathan's accomplishments

(edited text from THE MAIL STAR, NOV. 10, 2003)

Tatamagouche - A mother's memories of a little boy playing with toy soldiers and running through woods pretending to evade the enemy flash through Charlotte Smith's mind.

"He wanted to be a soldier from the time he was small," Canada's 2003 Silver Cross Mother said of her late son, Pte. Nathan Smith. "He loved it."

Ms. Smith, who still has those toy soldiers, will be thinking about her son and his military accomplishments on Nov. 11 at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, where she will lay a wreath on behalf of mothers who have lost sons and daughters in military or merchant navy service. "It'll be an emotional day," she said before leaving for Ontario with her husband Lloyd, Pte. Smith's father.

"I just hope I don't have to do any speeches," said the quiet and thoughtful woman, who doesn't relish being in the limelight but has talked openly about her son's life and death.

Ms. Smith's thoughts sometimes wander to other mothers and how they coped decades ago when news from foreign countries was sporadic and parents waited weeks and sometimes months for word about their children. In contrast, she knew within hours that her 26-year-old son had been killed in Afghanistan in April 2002. Three other soldiers from his unit, the 3rd Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry of Edmonton, also died at the same time. The four were killed when an American F-16 pilot dropped a 250-kilogram bomb on the soldiers despite orders to wait until a check could be done to see if coalition troops were in the area.

"It never dawned on me anything would ever happen to him," said Ms. Smith, who so often got caught up in her son's infectious enthusiasm for life and his military career.

"Sometimes I still think he's just away," she said, sitting in her Tatamagouche home where every day is Remembrance Day. Walls are covered with framed photographs and citations documenting Pte. Smith's all-too-short military career. The family has an outdoor memorial of flags, plaques and benches where people can sit and pay their respects. Her Silver Cross is among her most prized possessions.

"This means a lot to me," she said, holding the small medal that bears Nathan's name and tag number on the back. "He loved it ... the military. He accomplished everything he wanted to do."

Ms. Smith was Nova Scotia's Silver Cross Mother last year.

The Smiths, who moved to Tatamagouche in 1999, left Nova Scotia on Sunday and will return home on Wednesday. The couple raised Nathan and their daughter, in Ostrea Lake and Porters Lake.


Nathan was the only son of Lloyd & Charlotte (Williams) Smith. He grew up in Ostrea Lake, Nova Scotia, graduating from Eastern Shore District High in 1993. His hobbies were running, scuba diving and reading anything about the military. He held several jobs after high school and went into the army in 1998. He joined the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry in 1998, moving to Edmonton for the posting. He joined their unit's crack parachute company after completing basic training. He had been in Kandahar six months, & planned to marry his longtime girlfriend, Jodie May Carter upon his return to Canada.