Maryland senators pray for safe return of Sen. Will Smith, heading to Afghanistan with Navy Reserve

Sen. Bill Ferguson and Sen. Will C. Smith speak on the Maryland Senate floor on Thursday, March 28, 2019, about Smith's impending deployment to Afghanistan with the Navy. (Pamela Wood, Baltimore Sun video)

Maryland lawmakers bid farewell to Sen. Will C. Smith as he heads out on a deployment to Afghanistan with the Navy Reserve.

As senators concluded a floor session Thursday, they wished their colleague well and prayed for his safe return in November to the U.S.


Sen. Bill Ferguson, who sits next to Smith on the Senate floor, called his colleague a “true American hero” for serving his country.

Joking, Ferguson likened Smith’s departure to a breakup.

A measure that would have legalized medically assisted suicide in Maryland was defeated on a dramatic tie vote in the state Senate. Sen. Will Smith, the bill’s sponsor, said he hoped senators will build on this year’s work on the bill as they debate the measure in future years.

“I’m sorry I’m breaking up with you, Bill,” Smith joked back.

Then Smith, a Montgomery County Democrat, turned serious and recalled how the Sept. 11 attacks inspired him to join the military. He was a sophomore in college at the time and, at his family’s urging, waited to join the Navy until after he graduated from law school. He was directly commissioned as an officer.

Smith said his work with the military has given him a deeper appreciation for America’s “experiment” in democracy. He said it’s been the “honor of a lifetime” to serve in the Senate and participate in democracy each day.

In Annapolis, Smith is vice chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and Senate chairman of the General Assembly’s Veterans Caucus.

From votes on medically assisted suicide to raising Maryland’s hourly minimum wage, “that is all part of that experiment.”

Maryland state Sen. Will Smith, an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, will deploy to Afghanistan before the end of the General Assembly session. Smith has received orders to deploy in support of Operation Resolute Support, in which U.S. troops are providing assistance for Afghan security forces.

The Senate gave Smith a standing ovation.

Sen. J.B. Jennings, the minority leader who serves in the Air National Guard, said Republican senators keep Smith and his family in their thoughts during his deployment.

“Remember this: Your daughter has 46 aunts and uncles in here that are going to take care of her,” Jennings said.

Republican Sen. Johnny Ray Salling of Baltimore County stood before the chamber to pray.

“May the spirit of God be upon him, protect him and keep him in your arms,” Salling said.

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