Monday, October 28, 2013

Sexual Assault At Coast Guard Academy, The Webster Smith Case Chap 1


An American Tragedy

Webster Smith was born on July 9, 1983 in Houston, Texas. He is the oldest of four children born to Cleon and Belinda Smith. His sister is a senior at the University of Texas at  Arlington. The two younger brothers are twins and attended New Mexico Military Institute where one was in the was in the Coast Guard Prep Program. He applied to the Coast Guard Academy but was denied after his brother was court-martialed.

Webster first distinguished himself in the 7th grade when he was inducted into the Honor Society. When he finished the 8th grade he was accepted into the Strake Jesuit Prep School. Before applying to the Coast Guard Academy (CGA) he attended a Navy Prep school. All of his instructors wrote letters of recommendation strongly in favor of his admission to CGA.

To his classmates, teachers, and coaches at the Coast Guard Academy Webster Smith appeared to be a magnetic, charming and gifted man, who had risen above his circumstances. Yet, in a moment, as if in the twinkling of an eye, a swift series of events diminished his popularity, vilified his name, and assailed his honor. His image was converted by senior Coast Guard officers from a popular athlete and nice guy to that of a sexual predator and public enemy number one at the Coast Guard Academy.

Snatched from his bed in Chase Hall in the middle of the night, he was whisked away to the barracks at the Groton Naval Submarine Base. He became an outcast from his friends and classmates. His dreams of a military career were dashed. He would not graduate from the Coast Guard Academy like his father. He stood up at his court-martial and proclaimed to the world that his greatest wish in life was to be a Coast Guard officer.

Webster had dared to dream some big dreams. Like Alex Haley he had dared to believe that he could rise in the USCG to the highest level to which his talents and initiative could take him. Just like the Tuskegee Airmen and Navy World War II hero, Dorie Miller, he dared to dream that the time had come in America when a Black man could reach his full potential in the military. With energy and vitality he excelled in athletics and academics for three and a half years, before tragedy struck.

His parents were middle class African Americans. His father was a graduate of the Coast Guard Academy in the Class of 1978. There were 28 Black cadets in that class. One of the most distinguished members of that class was Vice Admiral Manson K. Brown, the first African American three star admiral in Coast Guard history.

The Classes of 1977 and 1978 contained the largest numbers of Black freshmen cadets ever to enter the Academy in a single class. The newly created Minority Recruiting Section (G-PMR-3) at Coast Guard Headquarters had traveled the dusty roads of America off the beaten path in search of qualified Black high school graduates who could make good Coast Guard officers. A few extremely gifted Black teenagers were given the chance to demonstrate their gifts. Webster Smith would not be permitted to further that legacy.

His mother, Belinda Ingram Smith, believed in God and a good education. After losing both parents as a teenager, she went on to become the Head Majorette of Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) a constituent institution of the University of North Carolina, and a historically Black public research university located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.   She accomplished this in her second year of college, something never before done by a sophomore. She left WSSU before receiving her undergraduate degree and went on to become the first Black female Crime Scene Investigator in the history of the Winston-Salem police Department.
This unbelievable turn about in what had been a Black success story is a singularly American tragedy.

That a cadet so deeply respected and loved by his coaches and classmates could evoke such an outpouring of hate and anger from the senior officers at the Coast Guard Academy is a Coast Guard tragedy and an American tragedy.







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