Vail Smith

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    Kili Class

    2023 Conquering Kili Class

    Role

    U.S. Marine Corps Veteran

    Location

    Chicago, IL

    I originate from Chicago, IL and enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1988 after graduating from Lane Tech High School. After completing basic training and The School of Infantry in San Onofre as a T.O.W. gunner (tube-launched, optically tracked wire guided missileman) in California I was attached to Headquarters Company 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Battalion. I served in operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield and served with Task Force Papa Bear in Desert Storm. I was honorably discharged and attended Northeastern Illinois University.

    After struggling with PTSD alone for many years I realized I needed the help of others which was extremely hard as it is for a lot of our nation’s warriors because we refuse to believe that we cannot beat something by ourselves. The realization brought clarity and purpose. So much so I have dedicated my life to helping others who struggle as I do. I now serve as Veteran Peer Specialist, Instructor and Mentor for the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance which trains the VA as well. I volunteer my services on the Board of the Lake County Coalition for the Homeless. We reached functional zero for homeless veterans in our county not long ago and strive to help any citizen who needs it. I also serve on the Board of Live4Lali where we compassionately serve men and women along with their families who are trying to recover from substance misuse. I am a proud member of the Merging Vets with Players family which joins former professional athletes and Combat Veterans for peer mentorship, growth and camaraderie. I currently attend college in pursuit of a Human Services degree and have recently been on an episode of Chicago PD!

    I believe in what the Chris Long Foundation and Waterboys are doing. I am on “10” that I was selected to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro for two reasons. One, being that I realize how lifesaving and lifechanging sustainable water wells are and am grateful to be of help in any way I can. Secondly, I have fought back from many obstacles that many believed I wouldn’t, and this would be the symbolic embodiment of the mountain of struggles that I had to climb to get back to me or perhaps something better. Thank you so much for this opportunity!

    Each new Conquering Kili class accepts the challenge to embark for the summit, a walk that represents the miles that many African women journey on a daily basis to fetch water for their families. While training for the climb, each team member works to raise funds and transform communities through the gift of clean water.

    Learn more about the program