Sometimes a date latches onto a life and just won't let go.
On a Jan. 14, U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith graduated from boot camp.
On a Jan. 14, he married his wife, Angie Smith.
And on Jan. 14, 2016, Randall Smith was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart for his actions on July 16, 2015 — the day he was mortally wounded during a terrorist attack at the U.S. Naval and Marine Reserve Center in Chattanooga. Shot three times, the bullets pierced his colon, liver, stomach and arm.
The 26-year-old died two days later, the fifth person killed by the gunman.
He left three daughters behind.
On Thursday, his oldest daughter accepted the award on her father's behalf in a small, private ceremony, according to statement from the Navy.
Vice Adm. Robin Braun, chief of the Navy reserve, attended the ceremony with a handful of other Navy leaders.
"The entire Navy Reserve Force was deeply saddened at the passing of LS2 Randall S. Smith," Braun said in a statement. "He was a dedicated sailor who cared deeply about his family, his community and his country. His service and, indeed, his life will remain an inspiration for his shipmates and all who were fortunate enough to have known him."
Angie Smith remembered her husband during the ceremony and told a story about Jan. 14, the release said.
She said Randall once commented that he would always remember the date.
Why? Angie had asked him. Because you married me?
No, you big dummy, Randall joked. Because that's the day I graduated boot camp.
Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at sbradbury@times freepress.com or 423-757-6525 with tips or story ideas. Follow @ShellyBradbury.