Brigadier General Neil Smart lived a full life, 94 years, a World War Two veteran, a retired regional director of the V.A. But to David Smart, the General was first and foremost, a dad at home.
"Our life was like 'Leave It To Beaver.' If we needed discipline, he gave it us. He was a great encourager, an optimist," said Smart.
Just a few days ago, Mr. Smart gave a gift to 5th graders at Prattville Christian Academy, Tom Brokaw's book, 'The Greatest Generation' with the hope children would learn a thing or two about the very sacrifices the veterans made more than 60 years ago.
"I want them to learn how important it is to be patriotic," said Neil Smart about two weeks ago.
For Smart the end came Friday night. He was just hours away from making the Honor Flight trip to Washington, a journey for veterans like him to see their own war memorial. In fact, Smart called Roscoe Williams first before dialing 911. He died of a heart attack.
"He said, 'Roscoe.. I don't think I'll make it. I got to call the ambulance,' Williams said.
Smart died around 9:30 that night, 9-and-a-half-hours before the chartered U.S. Air jet took off from Montgomery Regional Airport.
A patriot to the end. Just as Smart was slipping away his grandson, Hunter Smart, stood at the foot of the General's bed and gave one final salute.
Friends and family say the Brigadier General did in fact make the Honor Flight trip, just not the one that took off Saturday morning from Montgomery.
At Greenwood Cemetery, Smart received a full military burial with a 21-gun salute. Smart fought in the Battle of the Bulge and earned 4 battle campaign stars.