The No. 1 Marine general appeared in a brief video Tuesday in an effort to reassure Marines he was recovering from the cardiac arrest that had left him hospitalized for weeks.
It was the first known public-facing appearance that Commandant Gen. Eric Smith made since going into cardiac arrest more than three weeks ago.
“I’m still in the fight — I need you to be in the fight,” Smith said. “It’s not the first time I’ve been knocked down. When I was shot in 2004, I bounced back from that. I’ll bounce back from this.”
In April 2004, Smith was shot in the left leg but remained in Iraq, becoming the second-in-command of a Marine infantry regiment there, The Washington Post reported.
Before Tuesday, Smith had issued statements about his medical condition, but only in the form of written news releases issued by Marine Corps headquarters’ communications team.
Clad in the camouflage combat utility uniform and standing upright without support, he thanked Marines for their support and wished them a happy Thanksgiving.
Smith, who reportedly runs his own Instagram account, also posted a long caption to the video with reflections on the upcoming holiday.
“The world is uncertain, and I’ve been reminded recently that we can’t take anything for granted, but as Marines, we must be certain of one thing — that we’ll always have each other,” Smith wrote. “Thanksgiving is a great time to reaffirm our commitment to our fellow Marines and the core values that bind us together.”
“I’m thankful for each one of you, who had the courage to walk past the other service’s recruiting offices that offered you tangible rewards and probably an easier life, to join the one branch you knew was going to be the most challenging,” he said.
Smith went into cardiac arrest Oct. 29, and the Marine Corps announced him to be in stable condition three days later. He has been released from the hospital, the Corps said Thursday, and is preparing for a procedure to fix his bicuspid aortic valve ― a congenital heart abnormality that doctors said contributed to his cardiac arrest.
Meanwhile, the hospitalization of Smith and the lack of a Senate-confirmed assistant commandant left Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, the general in charge of force modernization, performing the duties of commandant. Gen. Christopher Mahoney took over Nov. 3 following his confirmation as assistant commandant.
On Tuesday evening, Mahoney issued his own Thanksgiving message to the force, urging Marines to “plan for mission success by managing the risks” of holiday travel.
“[A]ssess road terrain and weather conditions, get sleep, and allow adequate time for traffic,” Mahoney wrote. “If conditions change, change your plan for the well-being of your family, friends, unit, and yourself.”
“Remember this Marines, you are the most important thing to me,” Mahoney continued. “Take good care of yourselves and each other.”
Smith is not yet back to full duty status, Marine spokesman Maj. Josh Larson said Tuesday in an email to reporters.
But Smith repeatedly has indicated his intention of getting back to work once he can.
“I’ll be back in the fight soon enough, and I can’t wait to see you all again,” Smith wrote Tuesday.
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.