Marine Commandant Has Open-Heart Surgery Following Earlier Cardiac Arrest, Plans to Return to Duty

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U.S. Marine Gen. Eric M. Smith, the Commandant of the Marine Corps
U.S. Marine Gen. Eric M. Smith, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, speaks to Marines from Marine Corps Recruiting Station Montgomery and Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion 23rd Marines at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, Feb. 10, 2023. (Shannon Doherty/U.S. Marine Corps)

The commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Eric Smith, underwent successful open-heart surgery Monday after being hospitalized more than two months ago following a cardiac arrest near his home in Washington, D.C., the service said.

In a statement late Monday evening, the Marine Corps said that Smith, the service's top uniformed officer, was in "good condition" and expected to return to duty following his rehabilitation. The service did not provide a date for his return.

Smith suffered a cardiac arrest Oct. 29 near his home at Marine Barracks Washington. The surgery was to repair a bicuspid aortic valve in his heart that doctors previously said contributed to his hospitalization.

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"He is in good condition and continues to recover at the hospital among family members and his doctors," the statement from the Marine Corps said. "Following his rehabilitation, Gen. Smith will return to full duty status as commandant."

The assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Christopher Mahoney, has been performing the duties of the commandant while Smith recovers. The statement added that Smith and his family "appreciate everyone's continued respect for their privacy ahead of his full recovery."

Mahoney was sworn in as assistant commandant in November amid Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville's hold on military nominations over a Pentagon policy that provides travel reimbursement for service members who seek out abortions from civilian providers.

"Gen. Mahoney and I see eye to eye on the strategic direction of our Corps, and we are fortunate to be surrounded by a Marine Corps family filled with America's finest leaders," Smith said in November. "We continue to focus on finding the right balance between modernizing through Force Design and our day-to-day crisis response mission, while also on taking care of our Marines and sailors."

Later that month, Smith made his first public-facing appearance in a video message to Marines across the force.

"I'm still in the fight; I need you to be in the fight," Smith said. "It's not the first time I've been knocked down ... when I was shot in 2004, I bounced back from that. I'll bounce back from this."

The disclosure from the Marine Corps comes in stark contrast to the Pentagon's failure last week to disclose Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's continued hospitalization to the White House and Congress for days. The defense secretary was still being cared for at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland on Monday, but the Pentagon did not disclose his health issue.

Austin underwent elective surgery Dec. 22 and more than a week later started experiencing severe pain that landed him at the military hospital. President Joe Biden and the National Security Council were not notified of his hospitalization until Jan. 4.

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

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