On Monday, the 82-year-old grandson of a Nevada Army veteran proudly stood in for his grandfather, the late Private Robert Smith, as he was awarded the nation’s highest medal of bravery: The Medal Of Honor. Nevada Rep. Mark Amodei bestowed the honor upon Smith’s grandson, Jerry Reynolds, 140 years after he earned the medal for his efforts in a battle against American Indian tribes in the Dakota Territory.
Army records show that President Rutherford B. Hayes approved Smith’s medal for showing “special bravery in endeavoring to dislodge Indians secreted in a ravine,” on September 9, 1876. Smith never received the medal and would die without ever knowing he earned it. It was delivered to Camp Sheridan in Nebraska Territory, where Smith had lived for a short stint. An unidentified individual signed for the package but never turned it over to its rightful owner.
Smith’s grandson believes this was an honest error. He told reporters that his grandfather served under an alias. After leaving the service he returned to using his birth name.
The family was unaware that their ancestor had earned the nation’s highest honor until 2011. The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War contacted the Reynolds family to let them know of the accomplishment. It was revealed that Smith served as a drummer boy in the Civil War and later enlisted in the Army using the pseudonym for unknown reasons.