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Services Salute a Fallen Hero
TAYLORSVILLE -- A Mormon missionary felt compelled late one night to visit the home of Black Hawk pilot John Daren Smith before the chief warrant officer's deployment to Kuwait.
Adam Archer told mourners at Smith's funeral on Monday that he pushed aside words from an LDS scripture that kept coming to his mind as he prayed on Smith's behalf during their last visit together: "And it shall come to pass that those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them," were some of the words from Doctrine and Covenants, Section 42, which Archer had tried to ignore.
"I knew then that Daren was not going to return home to his family," Archer said as he glanced at Smith's widow, Meredith, and the couple's daughters, Kiara Danielle, 8, and Madeline Paige, 4. "Meredith also knew. The Lord was in their home that night, comforting them. I was witness to something of great magnitude, to be a part of the life of this man."
Smith, 32, and three crew members from the 158th Aviation Regiment were killed Feb. 25 when a sandstorm engulfed their U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter in Kuwait.
"J.D. was a really fine pilot. The desert is a tough place to fly," wrote Gary Farwell from Fort Bragg, N.C., who attended pilot training with Smith, in one of many messages sent from soldiers around the world.
During services attended by some 300 people, friends described Smith as a fun-loving prankster, a skilled athlete, avid rock climber and a man of integrity.
Archer, who served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told of often visiting the Smiths' home in Italy, where the family had been stationed. He remembered the afternoon when he and another missionary accompanied Smith on a mountain hike. At the summit, the three men gazed on the most a specular sunset that Archer had ever seen.
"It's a little piece of heaven, isn't it?" Smith announced to the younger men, who had struggled to keep pace going up the mountain. Archer remembered Smith quietly musing that his heaven would look something "like this."
Smith's childhood friend, Mike Lamoreaux, remembered Smith talking him into jogging, mountain climbing and once into bungee jumping. The latter adventure began as Lamoreaux was being harnessed into a towering swing and Smith remarking: "I don't think they put you in that right. Good luck, buddy!"
It was Lamoreaux who introduced Smith to Meredith Mackay, a Taylorsville High School cheerleader. And it was Lamoreaux who got a letter while Smith was serving a church mission in Italy, playfully instructing his old friend to ask Meredith if she would marry him as soon as he came home.
"He was the most passionate about his family," said Lamoreaux, who told of Smith's reaction when learning that Lamoreaux had a newborn son.
"Daren said that he would have another child if it could be guaranteed that he would get one more girl," Lamoreaux recalled. "He said, 'I love my girls that much.' "
Taylorsville Mayor Janice Auger presented Smith's wife and daughters with a proclamation expressing "gratitude that he laid down his life for his country, and gratitude to his loved ones who supported him in his decisions."
Said Bishop L. Mark Barlow to Smith's family: "Hundreds of thousands of prayers have been offered this week, which are a great source of strength. You are not alone. And you'll know that you have not been alone."
Graveside services are pending the return home of Smith's remains. A memorial fund has been set up at Wells Fargo Bank to assist with the care and education of his daughters.