There are few people who are truly as passionate as Army veteran and current AMVETS National District VI Commander Ross Smith.
Smith spearheaded AMVETS ONE, which is one of the major parts of Rolling To Remember – the largest veteran motorcycle brigade in the country. AMVETS ONE itself is focused on raising awareness for military veteran suicide. This is a major issue in this country, and Smith does not like it.
But where exactly did this passion come from? Why is Smith such an outspoken Army veteran? Well, you can thank his mom for helping him get his start in the military.
“At the age of 17 with a signature from my mother, I joined the United States Army,” Smith stated. “I was trained as an operating room technician and medic. My highest rank achieved is Sgt. E-5. I was honorably discharged in April, 1997. My duty stations include Fort Sill, OK; Fort Sam Houston, TX; Fort Ord, CA; and 63rd ARCOM, CA.”
It was through his time in active duty that Smith gained a completely new perspective on the military itself. While he wanted to sign up for the Army at the age of 17, he did not know what exactly to expect.
What he experienced in the Army made him want to become an advocate for those who feel they do not have a voice. He realized the number of veterans who deal with PTSD as well as suicidal thoughts is exponential, and he wanted to be able to make a difference any way he could.
“My life since 2005 has been in the service of others, especially those suffering from drug and alcohol abuse,” Smith said. “These efforts have led me to receive multiple awards of appreciation, including Congressional letters of achievement. I have had many opportunities to convey a message of hope on TV and radio with regards to the help AMVETS gives to countless veterans. I am honored and humbled by the opportunity to lead by example each and every day. My motto has been and will remain.”
This motto? “Together we can.”
This is Smith’s way of letting his fellow veterans know they are not in this alone. There are going to be difficult days when you see what you do during your time in the service, but that does not mean you have to go through those days alone. Smith wants his fellow veterans to know that there are people around them who love them and who want them here, and he is truly leading by example every single day.
“Commander Ross exhibits the qualities of what our AMVETS leadership should instill in others,” past AMVETS National Commander Greg Heun said. “His continued strive to ensure our veterans are off the streets, as well as taken care of and shown the respect they earned is his mission. Commander Ross goes above and beyond the call! His passion for our AMVETS family is his priority. I was greatly honored to present the AMVETS Department of the Year to Commander Ross.”
On top of all the other accolades and honors Smith has received, he has also received the honor of Department of the Year.
However, if you ask Smith, he will tell you that while he is humbled by these accolades, they are not what he is doing this for. He is doing this because he truly cares about his fellow brothers and sisters in arms. He wants them to see the light at the end of the tunnel and to realize that everything is going to be okay.
“When I first met Ross, I found him to be very knowledgeable and respectful,” Jeff Lukens, 1st Vice Commander, AMVETS Dept. of California said. “He takes this organization and his role in it very seriously. Ross is fluent in the department’s bylaws. He’s also very personable. He’s always available to give sound advice to our members and operates with a ‘big picture’ mentality.”
Smith is also not an advocate who is sitting in the wings talking the talk. He is out there walking the walk as well. He gets out in the community and reaches out to his fellow veterans and checks in on them.
And since 2020, while so many people started slowing down because of the pandemic, Smith really started to rev things up. He realizes that times like this are when people need support more than ever, and that’s why he has continued his efforts throughout the pandemic.
“He’s extremely busy in his community, especially once COVID hit,” Smokey Rickerd, Executive Director, AMVETS Dept. of California said. “Then, toward the beginning of 2022, he had the idea of AMVETS ONE, a cross-country trip by RV spreading veteran suicide awareness and prevention at several stops between California and Washington DC.”
Smith is doing everything he can to make an impact on a widespread issue in the military community. People are thankful for and gracious of his efforts, and they know that he is truly a world-changer.
Smith has a way of drawing people to his efforts because of how great they are, and he has people who are willing to back him in everything he does.
“I would follow that man into hell,” Lukens said. “For a marine to say that [jokingly] about a soldier, you know I mean it.”
Keep up the valiant efforts Commander Ross!