Ray Smith wrapped his arms around a plaque and a photo of his son on a wall at the Bay Pines VA Medical Center.
"Welcome home, son," he said, as close friends watched and fought back tears in a small counseling room at the center in St. Petersburg.
Smith saluted his son, while friends opened their arms to embrace a father who lost a son.
Smith, who lives in Gulfport, is a Vietnam veteran and father of one of the men killed during an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
“He was butchered, he was murdered. I’m putting the sole blame on the President of the United States,” Smith said.
Smith, close friends, U.S. Rep. C. W. Bill Young, R-FL, and Young's wife, Beverly, joined him in recognizing Sean Smith with a plaque displayed in one of the center's Institutional Disclosure Rooms.
The room is a private place where sometimes difficult decisions are made about treatment and services for patients. Smith said he's honored to have this plaque to remember his son and to visit at the center.
"None of this would have been able to happen. I can never thank you enough," he said.
Smith is a patient at the VA Center. More than 40 years ago, Smith suffered severe burns when he served during the Vietnam War. He was a "tunnel rat" and a Corporal in the U.S. Marines. He says he's proud of his son's service in the United States Air Force and ultimate sacrifice in Benghazi.
"He's a hero," Smith said.
During the ceremony Smith called for answers from the U.S. Government, stating the attack was a "disgrace".
"I’ve been through hell and back in Vietnam, I’ve seen death. I’ve taken a lot of lives. At least I had weapons, when I called for help, I got it."
Smith said he heard about his son's passing while watching the news. It was a traumatic experience for him.
He said that because he had been estranged from his son he was not identified as next of kin, though Sean's mother, Pat, was informed.
Smith said he and his son were working on their relationship and the two even began writing letters to each other before Sean was killed.
Smith didn't even know Sean was in Benghazi during the attacks. He says he's still in the dark regarding what really happened.
"You don’t leave them out there unarmed, unprotected. You do not do that, you don’t, they should have been armed. If there were Marines there, they wouldn’t have let this happen," he said.
Rep. Bill Young said he'd continue to help Smith find those answers. Since the death of 31-year-old Sean Smith, Young helped arrange a flag flyover at the United States Capitol and presented it to Smith.
Sean Smith leaves behind a wife and two young children, who live in California.
The plaque included a photo of Sean Smith and a message U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young read on the Congressional Record on Nov. 30.
Here is the statement:
"Sean Smith was a native of the Clairemont neighborhood of San Diego, California and seemed destined to serve his nation. His father, Rene 'Ray' Smith, my constituent from Gulfport, Florida, was a Corporal in the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. The elder Smith often served as a 'tunnel rat,' crawling deep into Vietcong underground facilities in search of the enemy. In 1970, during a firefight, he was burned over 60 percent of his body after the brush he was in caught fire. He raised Sean to appreciate the freedoms our nation provides and to be willing to fight for them.
"Sean enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1995 at the age of 17, so young that he needed a parental release. He served six years as a Ground Radio Maintenance Specialist, which included a deployment to Oman. Sean left the Air Force in 2002 as a Staff Sergeant. At the time of his death, Sean was on temporary assignment to assist in the establishment of the Information Technology infrastructure in support of the Mission to Libya. Before his assignment to Benghazi, Sean had given 10 years of dedicated service to the State Department around the globe in Brussels, Baghdad, Pretoria, Montreal, and The Hague.
"A technological guru, Sean's computer savvy was not limited to his United States Air Force and State Department duties. Sean was an avid gamer and well known in the online gaming community of the space fantasy game EVE Online. A leader of the 'Goonswarm' guild, his gaming persona 'Vile Rat' made use of Sean's skills as a diplomat and he was respected as a skilled competitor. Additionally, Sean was a moderator of the internet forum, 'Something Awful,' where he posted about football, politics and working with the Foreign Service."