Jordan Smith aims high. He's just the kind of person the Air Force is looking for, maybe even to fly the F-22.
"It's just the best, the fastest and the coolest to fly," Smith said.
In March, Smith will find out if he's heading to pilot school following his A&M stint. He and his twin brother came to Aggieland by way of the Dallas area. Jordan played a number of sports growing up, but knew piloting was his goal from an early age. In fact, he had been behind the stick of an aircraft before he was ever behind the wheel of a car.
It's the Corps that's instilled in Smith even more drive and determination to serve his country.
"It forces you to learn how to use your time wisely, which I think is invaluable in today's society," he said.
So many learned the value of time in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, even those who weren't directly affected by her wrath.
"I was coming back from class, walking down the Quad, and I was ready for Friday afternoon activities," Smith remembered. "Low and behold, I heard the word that we're going to Reed Arena to help set up for Hurricane Katrina relief. I've never seen such a positive response from such a large organization at once."
Reed became home to hundreds of displaced people, many who had lost it all in a fury of wind and rain, even more who were swept up in the emotion of it all. It was then, as it always seems to be in times of turmoil, that the Spirit of Aggieland shone.
"There was so much anxiousness to do something and help out that when the thought that Reed Arena could be used, we jumped on that," Smith said.
And among the hundreds of cadets helping hundreds of evacuees, Smith stood out.
"I would go there after my Thursday classes and stay there until I had to go to my Tuesday classes of the next week," he recalled.
Before you think that this young man maybe pulled a 10-hour shift and headed back to his dorm for the night, think again.
"I'd sleep right there beside them in a cot," he said. "If they had to stay there, I figured the least I could do is to stay right there beside them willing to do anything it took to provide for their needs and take care of them.
"I like leading from the front and staying there right beside anybody else to help them out in any way I can."
And through it all, it was kids that shone through in what could have been dark days. One instance, in particular, stands out. A young girl from the Gulf Coast named Asia literally had her birthday interrupted by Katrina. She witnessed a Hollywood-esque event: her birthday gifts were swept down the street.
But Asia's trauma sparked Smith to act. Within a day, volunteers had arranged an enormous celebration, complete with gifts and cake, as well as a sing-along.
"We brought Asia out to the main floor of Reed Arena, and about 500 people at the whole place sang 'Happy Birthday' to her at once," Smith said. "Most girls would get shy about this, but Asia was absolutely loving it.
"It was just an amazing site to see the kids making the best out of the worst possible situation, to see the hope and joy in their lives."
Hope and joy is what Smith provided for so many during their stay, and for that, he recently received the Corps Meritorious Service Medal. His citation reads:
"For exceptionally meritorious service during evacuee support operations in Reed Arena for Huricanes Katrina and Rita in August and September 2005. Cadet Smith worked tirelessly, virtually around-the-clock, directing the efforts of hundreds of cadets to help meet the needs of the evacuees. Cadet Smith's leadership and selfless service were invaluable to the mission and reflected great credit upon himself, his unit, and the Corps of Cadets."
In his speech to the assembled Corps on the night of the organization's awards ceremony, Smith said, "Through the efforts at Reed Arena, we have touched the lives of more than 1,200 people."
People like Nathaniel Carr, an evacuee from Louisiana, now a local resident, a man who shared in Smith's day of honor because Smith shared his time and his efforts for him.
"Beautiful personality and everything," Carr said of Smith. "He's on the job. He's on the job 24/7. He's a dynamite guy."
And with all that he does, Smith credits the organization he loves, the group that stepped forward in a time of crisis, so that people could begin aiming high again.
"It's something that you really can't learn anywhere else," he said, "and I feel privileged to be in the Corps of Cadets for that reason."
You can find out more about Jordan Smith at the official Corps of Cadets website.
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