Airman helps homeless get a fresh start

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Victor J. Caputo
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force's core values are used to remind Airmen how to get the mission done. Integrity first and excellence in all we do are rather straightforward, but how exactly does one define service before self?

Capt. Razell Smart, a 22nd Operations Group special operations air refueling (SOAR) chief mission planner, interpreted the second core value to go beyond simply doing his job well.

Putting the needs of others first in his life, Smart went to downtown Wichita, Kansas, during Thanksgiving and invited an elderly, homeless man, named Jeff, over for a holiday feast.

"I saw him standing outside The Lord's Diner and asked him if he wanted to come have Thanksgiving with my friends and family," Smart said. "He said sure, so I brought him to my house."

Jeff was quiet during the meal, but his appreciation and enjoyment could be seen by Smart and his companions, the captain said. Smart gave Jeff new clothes, washed the clothing that he had been wearing and paid for Jeff to stay in a hotel for the night, but, giving Jeff a special holiday wasn't enough for Smart.

"One night I was lying in bed, and he was on my mind," he said. "What else could I do to help him?"

That constant thought pushed Smart to start a fundraising website to give Jeff all the help he could. What started off as a chance encounter has not only given Smart a way to continuously help Jeff, but also gave him a new friend.

"Some people just need a break," he said.

Smart has since taken Jeff to get a haircut, the dentist and has begun looking into possible social security benefits.The next step is providing Jeff with the opportunity to find a place to live for more than 90 days at once -- a limitation imposed by some of the shelters in Wichita.

"I want to help him as much as can without setting him up for failure," Smart said.

This kind of devotion to helping another person is not surprising for the people who know Smart.

"I'm very moved by what Raz has done," said Maj. Derek Neal, the 22nd OG SOAR deputy chief. "He did it because he enjoys serving other people. He didn't do it for self-aggrandizement, but rather because he wants to make a difference in people's lives."

Neal was deployed with Smart before becoming his supervisor and he is a firm believer that the captain is a shining example of what an Airman should aspire to be.

"He gets the job done, but more importantly, he builds relationships at the same time," Neal said. "Razell Smart is the quintessential people person. He remembers names and previous conversations, asks about your personal life and offers to help. I aspire to be more like him, and his act of selfless charity has inspired me, my family and the entire community."