Buchanan WWII veteran killed in combat gets new headstone in Botetourt County cemetery

‘We don’t want them just laid into the ground and then forgotten about,’ said American Legion District 9 Commander, Daniel Garrett

BOTETOURT COUNTY, Va. – One organization in Botetourt County went above and beyond this Memorial Day by honoring one local veteran who was killed in combat more than eight decades ago.

The nonprofit, Sirens and Salutes, is known for honoring first responders and veterans.

This Memorial Day, they bought a new headstone for Buchanan native World War II veteran, Russell Smith.

Sirens and Salutes President Bill Price stumbled upon a stone with Smith’s name on it at the Lithia Baptist Cemetery in Botetourt County.

“On the rock, it had a plate stamped, Russell Smith, killed in World War II. And that’s all it said, and it was a little silver plate,” said Price. “I said, ‘Man, this guy could be here and this is all he has? We’ve got to fix this.’”

After months of research, Price learned Smith was born and raised in Buchanan and served in the Army during World War II, where he was killed in combat in France.

To honor the hero, a new headstone was placed beside the old stone at Lithia Baptist Cemetery in Botetourt County.

“We don’t want them just laid into the ground and then forgotten about,” said American Legion District 9 Commander, Daniel Garrett.

Fellow World War II veteran Jack Cassell, who attended the Memorial Day event, said it means a lot to see Smith and other veterans like him honored.

“Well, it’s great to be honored. It means everything,” said Cassell.

Records show Smith was buried in France, but a casket was discovered under the stone in the Lithia cemetery, the same cemetery where Smith’s mother is buried.

“I think it might be quite possible that she had him brought back and put up there and never had the money for a headstone,” said Price.

However, through all the research, no photos or family members were found.

Despite that, Price said veterans like Smith must be honored and remembered.

“We haven’t been able to find a family and it’s been many years now since WWII, so we need to make this right and have people know he’s up there,” he said.

If you know someone who is related to Russel Smith, contact Sirens and Salutes.

About the Author:

Sydney joined the WSLS 10 News team in June 2021.