'I'm Still in the Fight’: Top Marine General Makes First Video Appearance Since Cardiac Arrest

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Eric M. Smith addresses attendees at the 40th Beirut Memorial Observance Ceremony at Lejeune Memorial Gardens in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Eric M. Smith addresses attendees at the 40th Beirut Memorial Observance Ceremony at Lejeune Memorial Gardens in Jacksonville, North Carolina, Oct. 23, 2023. (Lance Cpl. Zachary Zephir/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

The commandant of the Marine Corps made his first public-facing appearance Tuesday since being sidelined by a cardiac arrest last month.

In a video address to Marines posted on Instagram, Gen. Eric Smith, the top Marine officer, assured them that he is recovering and is "still in the fight."

Smith collapsed near his home in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 29 and, after three weeks in the hospital, was released last week to prepare for surgery to treat an underlying heart condition that doctors said directly contributed to his cardiac arrest.

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"I'm still in the fight; I need you to be in the fight," Smith said in a brief video, thanking Marines for their support as he recovers.

"It's not the first time I've been knocked down, he said. "When I was shot in 2004, I bounced back from that. I'll bounce back from this."

Smith was shot in the left leg in the spring of 2004 during a deployment to Iraq, according to The Washington Post. He was wounded alongside other Marines during an ambush that killed a 19-year-old private first class, but ultimately decided to stay in Iraq despite his leg needing surgery months later, the publication reported.

Last week, the Marine Corps announced that Smith had been released from the hospital and was recovering at his home, preparing for a surgery to repair a bicuspid aortic valve in his heart. Smith was standing and did not appear to need any assistance in the brief video released Tuesday.

Maj. Joshua Larson, a spokesperson for the commandant, told reporters via email Tuesday that Smith is "not yet back to full-duty status."

The message, which was billed as a Thanksgiving address to Marines as they head into the holiday, was Smith's first appearance since the Marine Corps Marathon late last month, the same day he suffered a cardiac arrest. Prior to Tuesday, the Corps issued statements via press release on Smith's condition.

"The world is uncertain, and I've been reminded recently that we can't take anything for granted, but as Marines, we must be certain of one thing -- that we'll always have each other," Smith said in the video's caption. "Thanksgiving is a great time to reaffirm our commitment to our fellow Marines and the core values that bind us together."

Smith wrote that he would be back in the fight soon. As of last week, the Corps did not have a timeline for when that would occur. Gen. Christopher Mahoney, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, has been performing the duties of the commandant in Smith's absence.

"I know you'll continue to have each other's back, but I'd also challenge you to look for opportunities to do even more," Smith said in the posted caption. "This is the time of year when some of us will need a little more. If this were combat, I know each of you would do extraordinary things to help a fellow Marine. I need you to do that in garrison, too."

-- Drew F. Lawrence can be reached at drew.lawrence@military.com. Follow him on X @df_lawrence.

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