SMSgt Wayne Smith 8
2137 Atlanta Circle
Andrews AFB, MD 20335
B/Gen William W. Spruance
26 Treasure Island Road
Marathon, FL 33050-2524
...Thank you one more time for having been such an effective and motivating speaker at my Airman Leadership School Class a little over fourteen years ago.
I was so impressed by your safety presentation that I left the auditorium with the intention to never think twice about using seatbelts again. In fact, I soon gave seatbelts no thought at all, because using them became as natural a part of the operation of the vehicle as putting the key in the ignition. The only time I gave seatbelts any thought was when I insisted on my passengers wearing them. I did allow a freedom of choice however they could wear their seatbelts or walk.
When I married in 1983 my new bride made the following brash statement when we got in my car to go to the reception, "You better make me happy!" I simply replied, "You better put on your seatbelt!"
The real story I have to tell you came a year later. My wife was on the way to drop off our newborn son with her sister, on her way to work. It was a foggy morning in the early fall with a misty drizzling rain. As she was coming around a curve, she was surprised to see a semi-tractor truck with a trailer backing across the road on which she was traveling. It happened so quickly that her reaction was to brake hard, hoping to stop. Unfortunately, her brakes locked and her car slid under the trailer bed, shattering the windshield and curling the top of the car down and backward against the front seats. Luckily she lay down in time to have everything pass overhead. My son was in an approved car seat and buckled in. Neither my wife nor son was hurt in the accident but I took them to the hospital at Ft. Knox, KY for observation by a doctor just to be on the safe side. On the way to the hospital my wife thanked me for the first time for my "obsession with seat-belts." At the emergency room a doctor and nurse were shocked to find the baby without a cut. The impact of the crash had been great enough that there were pieces of the shattered windshield in the baby's diaper, even though he was thoroughly wrapped in a blanket and wearing a "sleeper". The doctor told me, "It's obvious that this child was in a car-seat and seal-belts were in use. You were lucky!"
Was I lucky? Yes and No. I'm more than lucky to have escaped a tragedy of the loss of loved ones, but I've thought about that statement and I'm not sure the doctor understood where the luck started and stopped. Without those seatbelts, my wife and son would have died that morning. I have no doubt that there was no "luck" involved, just a good habit.
My "luck" was to be sitting in the audience fourteen years ago, listening to a Guest Speaker for my Leadership School class, and being influenced in a way that I wouldn't realize for many years.
I regret that I didn't fulfill my obligation to you by taking pictures of the vehicle from which my wife and child survived. I owe you a great deal for what you taught me that day. I guess the next best thing is to send you a picture of the success of your message, my son, alive and well and now nine years old. I'd like to introduce him to you someday, so that he could meet one of my Heroes. I could never thank you enough! If there is ever anything I can do for you sir, please don't hesitate to call on me.
Wayne Smith, SMSgt, USAF
ANG Visual Information Services Superintendent