Starting with a simple picture shared through the free photo sharing application, Instagram, the Press Gazette learned about Darren Smith, “a Milton homegrown man (and) graduate of Central High School that is currently stationed in Vilseck, Germany,” as he put it. As seen, the photo shows Smith raising his mountain bike above his head at the end of a ride in the Zugspitze mountains of Garmish, Germany, part of an Army-organized singles retreat.
Private First Class Darren Smith graduated Central High in 2014. He said, “Because I’m a big baseball guy, I originally signed with West Georgia Tech and played ball a year.” Smith said he planned to finish college and join the Army as an officer, but a change of plans lead to leaving school early to help his family out. With a change in strategy, he decided to kick start his military career and enlisted in the Army, making him the first in his family to join the branch of service, though he said his grandparents were all Navy. Smith is now an infantryman, he said, part of a mechanized unit in Vilseck, a vehicle unit with trucks. Smith still has baseball on the horizon, saying “I communicate with my coach every other week. (He) told me whenever I want to come back, I’m more than welcome.”
Smith said he’ll be back stateside in 2017 into another duty station. He was recently stationed in northern Syria for three months when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device (IED), injuring his back. “All of a sudden my unit got emergency lifted out of Syria, wasn't supposed to be able to come home for Christmas but I’ll get to come now.”
Regarding the retreat itself, Smith said every military branch has singles, family, and marriage retreats. “The chaplain takes you,” he said. Smith said the retreat has classes designed to “make you a better person, change your life, and inspire others. Also, in the meantime, you’re actually getting out and doing stuff on your own and stuff for the group. (It’s) a lot of team building and getting closer with each other.”
Smith’s biking trip he said “was actually one of the biggest things I've done since my accident. Two weeks ago I was released from physical therapy and got my staples out. I regained muscle back, I had 32 staples in my back and had a cut three and a half inches deep.”
See photos of his tour in the photo gallery