A father apologizes for Marine son

By: Darrell Smith - Commentary

I am the father of Pfc. McKenzie Smith, the Marine who was shot June 23 (allegedly) committing a felony in Oceanside. I cannot express fully my words of apology for what my son has done. He has dishonored himself, the Marine Corps and his family.

I live in Oregon in a rural area and cannot fathom the reason why my son did what he did. The community I live in wonders what possibly could have happened to change the McKenzie they knew before he left for the Marines. He was known here for his ability to make people laugh, work hard and that he stood up for what he thought was right.

He worked and went to a community college, dug postholes and built fence, branded cattle and worked in the wheat fields of Montana. He was not raised gently, but firmly, and was taught to say "Yes sir" and "No sir" and respect his elders.

The point here is that we, his mother, brother and sister, have no idea as to why. That question may never be answered. The sad fact is that Mac stole from us, too, probably to me something much more valuable than money. He stole time, time that cannot be replaced. He will not see his grandmothers alive, or his new nephew until he is almost the same age as Mac is now, and perhaps I or his mother may be gone.

This is a sad commentary to a once bright future. A bad discharge and a felony record is not a great way to start life again. Herein lies the hope. The hope here is that Mac will take this opportunity to re-evaluate his life and set some priorities, come home once he has paid his debt and become a productive member of our society. The five holes in his back and the three bullets still there will, I think, remind him a great deal of the costs of his actions. The disappointment and outpouring of sadness has been truly remarkable. I again wish to apologize for my son and, as he apologized to me and said to tell everyone he was sorry and that his shame was evident upon his face, so I hope you as a community will accept it.

Darrell Smith lives in Coquille, Ore., and works for a lumber firm. His son, McKenzie, a Camp Pendleton-based Marine, has pleaded not guilty to 11 counts of robbery and other charges.