State Sen. William C. Smith Jr., a Democrat who represents Silver Spring and Takoma Park, will leave the Maryland General Assembly next month for a tour of duty in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led Operation Resolute Support, which seeks to train members of the Afghan military.
Smith, formerly an officer in the Navy Reserve, will report for duty March 29 after receiving orders from the Pentagon. The legislature adjourns April 8.
Smith’s office staff will still handle constituent matters during his absence.
Smith, 37, said on the Senate floor that he intends to return to country by Thanksgiving.
“We’ve worked to ensure that I can accomplish my legislative agenda, but obviously there are some implications in the event that there’s a veto,” he said in an interview Thursday morning.
Smith said there are a few key pieces of legislation that he hopes to pass this session, including a bill that would allow medical patients to request a physician’s aid in ending their own life, under certain conditions. He said he also hopes to get a bill passed that would prohibit correctional officers from informing federal immigration authorities about an inmate in certain circumstances.
Smith, one of 11 members on the Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee, said there are no absentee votes allowed from overseas, and he likely will be unable to communicate with fellow legislators during the final weeks of the session.
Smith said this will be his first tour of duty in Afghanistan, having previously been deployed in Europe. He had mixed emotions about his upcoming service.
“I’m excited to serve and be in the position, but I’m also a little nervous,” he said.
Due to Navy policy, Smith could not comment on the specifics of his mission, or on when he would return. But he said he was confident he would be back in time for the 2020 legislative session.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) praised Smith on Twitter, writing “our prayers and full support go to Senator Will Smith and his family as he readies for deployment to Afghanistan at the end of next month.”
Del. Eric Luedtke, a Burtonsville Democrat in the House, also wished Smith well.
“He’s [Smith] a tremendous public servant in and out of Maryland, and I know he’ll make us proud serving our nation in Afghanistan. Godspeed. We’re all praying for your safe return home,” he wrote.
Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller also praised Smith for his dedication to service.
“We’re proud of his accomplishments and the work he has done on behalf of all the State of Maryland and pray for his safe return,” he wrote in a news release.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.email@example.com