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Texas’ oldest Gold Star mother remembers son

Published: Sep. 27, 2020 at 6:44 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - 103-year-old Oleta Smith says she gained sons when she met the soldier who served with hers, James Smith, in Vietnam.

It’s the journey that led to their meeting which brings heartache.

“It was very hard to give up my only son,” she said.

“God gave us strength and kept us on the right track.”

In 1968, Smith was on his second tour in Vietnam when his camp was ambushed. As enemy fire came down, Smith took his injured friend and comrade, Lynn Hughes, to the bunker when he was struck with shrapnel to the chest.

James W. Smith was killed in 1968.
James W. Smith was killed in 1968.(Courtesy Photo)

“He only had one hit, into his heart,” she said.

“He only lasted a few minutes, but he wasn’t at home where I could take care of him.”

After his death, Hughes had searched for years to find Smith’s mother. By 2000, he finally found her online through a family cousin. They met in person and visited the Vietnam memorial in Washington D.C.

Since their meeting, Oleta has met other veterans who served with her son.

She says while losing him still hurts to this day, she’s proud of the new sons she’s gained and that hers died by helping them survive.

“It was just meant for us to be together,” she said.

“I love them to death almost as much as my own son and they’ve filled the vacancy in my heart.”

Lynn Hughes finally met the mother of the comrade who saved him in 2000.
Lynn Hughes finally met the mother of the comrade who saved him in 2000.(Courtesy Photo)

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