The U.S. Marine Corps has confirmed that Commandant Gen. Eric Smith was hospitalized Sunday evening after suffering a “medical emergency” that is believed to have been a heart attack, according to U.S. defense officials and medical professionals.
According to The Daily Mail, Smith, age 58, experienced a heart attack Sunday night while jogging near Marine Barracks Washington. A District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department spokesperson told The New York Times that witnesses watched Smith “stumble” before falling “face-first on the sidewalk.”
Two defense officials also told USNI News Monday that the commandant suffered a heart attack on Sunday evening.
In a Monday press release, the Marine Corps explained that Smith “experienced a medical emergency on the evening of Oct. 29, 2023, and has been hospitalized. The press release noted that “additional information” pertaining to Smith’s condition would be “released at a later time.”
In a video message from the Marine Corps on Monday night, Sergeant Major Carlos A. Ruiz said Smith was “currently receiving care at a local hospital.”
Addressing service members in the Marine Corps, Ruiz said, “I, just like you, have great professional respect and admiration for our commandant, and so I hope you’ll join me in wishing him a speedy recovery.”
In addition to addressing Smith’s “medical emergency,” Ruiz assured Marine Corps members that leadership of the esteemed military branch would remain “in good hands.” He explained that Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, as the “most senior officer” in the Marine Corps headquarters, would be performing Smith’s duties while the commandant recovers due to the current assistant commandant vacancy.
“I know that all Marines will join me in wishing General Smith a swift recovery so he can return to duty. I also know that Marines across our Corps are professional warfighters who will remain focused on the important work each of you are doing every day,” Ruiz continued. “Since taking our seats, the commandant and I have emphasized discipline, professionalism, and conduct, and that doesn’t change today or what we do tomorrow.”
Ruiz concluded his video message to U.S. service members by highlighting how the Marine Corps is “a family” and reminding Marine Corps members that he is “proud” to serve alongside each member. “We remain ‘Semper Fidelis,'” he said.
According to USNI News, prior to Smith’s heart attack, the commandant was last publicly spotted welcoming Marine Corps Marathon runners at the finish line of the race in Arlington, Virginia, on Sunday afternoon.
Heckl, who will be temporarily fulfilling Smith’s duties, is the deputy commandant for combat development and integration. The Marine Corps assistant vacancy is due to the lack of a Senate confirmation for Lt. Gen. Christopher Mahoney, who has been nominated for the position.