Chaplain Wallace Smith continues the legacy created by his son
As the chapters of his life continue to unfold, Wallace Smith can see that his life path has had its share of obstacles and was less defined than some. His experiences, coupled with his unyielding Christian faith, led him to the Warrenton Police Department where he is now Chaplain.
According to Chief Battle, having Smith as part of the department has reshaped how he views his role as chief and the way the officers in the department interact with members of the community. The Chief credits Wally, as he is called, with encouraging the department to take a closer look at how “we address law enforcement versus social issues.” Although every illegal issue still receives a criminal investigation, it is no longer an “arrest and forget situation,” according to the Chief. “We can’t arrest [the opioid epidemic] away and Wally has helped us recognize this.”
Raised in Glen Rock, New Jersey, only 20 miles from Manhattan, Smith lived a Leave It to Beaver life. “My father worked for Lever Brothers in New York City and my mother was a stay-at-home mother until we were grown when she spent time working in a bank. Our parents were the best,” he says with a smile. Smith’s family includes two brothers and one sister. Smith’s father was also the President of the City Council in Glen Rock and the Police and Fire Commissioner, where Smith got his introduction to law enforcement.
In college, Smith experimented with drugs and alcohol. “Remember, I was a child of the sixties,” he reasons. He was academically suspended his senior year. “Most people are thrown out of school during their freshman year; I had to work really hard to be thrown out as a senior,” he self-deprecates.
After leaving college, he went through the United States Treasury School and was one of the first graduating classes of sky marshals in the United States. The lifestyle suited him at the time and gave him the opportunity to travel. He also spent time working as an agent for the United States Customs Bureau in New York City. After spending three years with the U.S. Treasury Department, he accepted a position as an FAA Air Traffic Controller at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.
During this time, Smith was not attending church. “One day a friend invited me to attend his church service. I told him I hadn’t been to church since I was 12 and slept-in on Sundays. When he said the service was on a Tuesday evening, it peaked my interest.”
Smith went to the service, along with nearly one thousand other people. “At the end of the service, the preacher asked if anyone would like to give their life to God. I thought to myself, who in their right mind is going to stand up and walk down in front of all these people. At that moment, it was as if I heard God call my name. I may have even answered, ‘yes sir.’ And I stood up and walk down in front of all those people to give my life to God.” Smith and the preacher went into a private room and prayed together. His life was never the same.
Shortly after giving his life to God, Smith met his wife, who was a recovering alcoholic. Walking similar paths, they began to walk together and have built a life of ministry in Warrenton.
The Smiths have lived on an 18-acre family compound in Warrenton for the past 30 years. They gave each of their two daughters an acre of land to build their homes on. Their son, Brian, however, never had the opportunity to build his.
“Brian struggled with a heroin addiction for 15 years. He overdosed in August 2016.” As chaplain with the Warrenton Police Department, it was a call he would have gotten; the Chief received the call instead. “In this instance, Wally came in as a parent. I took on his role for him during this time,” recalls the Chief.
“In Brian’s case, we are able to identify precisely when his addiction began. At 14, Brian had surgery on his knee and was prescribed Percocet. He loved the way it made him feel. Six months later, he messed his knee up again and got more Percocet. His best times sober were never as good as his best times high, he told us,” says Smith.
Brian’s legacy includes Celebrate Recovery, a 12-step program that he began when he left jail the second time. The group meets every Friday and welcomes anyone with hurts, habits, or hang-ups, although a majority of the attendees struggle with addiction. A sister program, Celebrate Recovery INSIDE, meets in the county jail. Smith meets with male inmates while his wife, Pat, meets with females every Sunday night.
Greg Hackett, pastor at The Bridge Community Church, believes that it is Smith’s ability to access emotions that makes him so good at what he does. “His own experiences allow people to connect with him and open up.” Hackett believes that Smith is “in a place where people in a relationship with an addict hope to arrive someday.”
“When Brian left jail for the second time, after having served 11-months, he was in a good place. He had a job at Country Chevrolet, a place to live, and was invited present at local recovery program. It takes only one bad day to relapse,” says Smith. “Brian was NARCANned twice, he just didn’t learn his lesson.” NARCAN® is for the emergency treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdose. Every officer at the Warrenton Police Department has one and is trained on how to use it.
Brian’s program continues to help people within the community. Shortly after his death, Smith’s church put together an event called Brian’s Walk. Participants were given a random map and made their way through the community to pray for families. The map the Smiths received brought them to Brian’s dealer’s house. “We said two prayers that day. First we asked that the drug distribution stops at this house and the second prayer we said was for God to get a hold of that person.” This past April, Smith was at Celebrate Recovery INSIDE on a Sunday night when a new inmate joined the group. “He told me he knew Brian from the street and that he had been to our house,” says Smith. The Smiths’ prayers were answered. Smith adds, “This was the young man we prayed over. Brian’s life was not a waste.”
Now in retirement, Chaplain Smith uses his experiences, some he is still collecting, and has channeled them into something positive and hopeful for the community. “Brian didn’t want to have an addiction. He didn’t want to hurt his family and the people who loved him.” Through it all, Smith possesses unwavering faith in God who he believes saved him and harbors no anger. “I can’t allow anger to interfere or I will not be able to move forward.” Smith trains his eye on the source of the problem: the addiction.
Chief Battle recommends that all departments hire a chaplain. Without one, they are missing a valuable component of their department. On a personal level, the Chief believes that “Wally is the kind of person we all aspire to be.”
The Warrenton Police Department’s Chaplain wishes to “remind people that no matter where you are in life, whatever mistakes you may have had in the past, if you believe in yourself and place your faith in God, you can change your life.” In Smith’s case, more lives than one can be changed.
Chaplain Smith Serves at Fauquier Health
In addition to his role as Chaplain at the Warrenton Police Department, Smith serves as the Senior Chaplain at Fauquier Health. He ensures that there is a Chaplain on call every day of the week if a patient or family requests to speak with one.
The Smith’s also ran a popular photography studio on Main Street for 20 years. Sonshine Pictures photographed over 4,000 weddings over the years and employed talented photographers in the community.