In the Community

‘I Wanted to Continue My Family Tradition’

Joann Smith served in the Air Force for 14 years, from 1979 – 1992. She eventually retired to Roanoke, Virginia, after rising to the rank of E-6, a technical sergeant.

After being born a “military brat” in Munich, Germany, Smith followed the tradition of her family and enlisted when she turned 18.

“My dad was a 100% service-connected disabled Vietnam War-era veteran,” Smith said. “My three uncles also served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War era. Between all four brothers there were 50 years of service. My dad was my hero. I wanted to continue that service and tradition.”

During her time in the Air Force, Smith traveled all over the world serving in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, four years in the Pacific on Okinawa in Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Ramstein, Germany. She has worked as a weapons load crew chief on fighter bomber 111, and on F-15 and F-16 fighters in Plattsburgh, New York.

“You know, I didn’t really grow up with a hometown. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere until I got out of the military,” Smith said. “I moved back to Roanoke, Virginia, after retiring to be closer to my family. I moved again to New Castle, Virginia, when my father was in bad health. I consider New Castle to be my home now.”

Smith proudly claims VFW Post 4491 in Craig Valley, Virginia, as her base of operations, where she is #StillServing as the Post’s quartermaster and adjutant. Smith also works as a paralegal at the Department of Veteran Affairs in Virginia.

“I’ve worked for the VA for about 17 years now, with the last 14 years as a paralegal in the Office of General Counsel, Revenue Law Group,” Smith said. “We provide legal services to recover money owed to the VA and help veterans maximize personal injury and worker compensation recoveries. Mainly, we want the responsible parties to pay for the injured veterans medical care instead of the American taxpayer.”

In 2023 alone, her group recovered over $136 million owed to veterans in compensation. Money recovered by this program helps VA medical facilities provide care to veterans in addition to money appropriated by congress to the VA.

When she’s not working at the VA office, Smith helps plan events, organize volunteers and run parades at her VFW Post.

“VFW Post 4491 is the same Post that my father belonged to as well,” Smith said. “Our Post hosts fundraising and recruiting events at the local Food Country, High School Land Lab Fair, Ruritan Flea Market and County Fall Festival. We do flag raisings at the courthouse, provide flag bearers for the Fourth of July, Veterans Day and Christmas parades. We also provide honor guard funeral services for local veterans.”

On Veterans Day, their Post hosts a big event at the local high school football game, where veterans and military members get in free.

“We raffle a commemorative flag set at the football game. It’s always a good time,” she said. “We may have a ‘small Post’ with only 82 members, but we make a big impact in our community. They support us and we support them back. Everyone helps where they can around here.”

Subscribe to #StillServing Updates

Stay connected with your fellow veterans within the #StillServing community.

  • Hidden
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.