Assembly Democrats R. Bruce Land and Bob Andrzejczak issued the following statement Wednesday regarding the first annual observance of “Sergeant Dominick Pilla and Corporal Jamie Smith Day” in New Jersey–a day that is the result of a joint resolution (AJR-129) they sponsored. It was approved 79-0-0 by the full Assembly last week.
“These soldiers gave their lives to protect many of the liberties that we enjoy as Americans,” said Andrzejczak (D-Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland). “This designation is our way of honoring their sacrifices, commitment and heroism.
“We wanted to ensure that these soldiers’ lives are forever commemorated in the state of New Jersey,” said Land (D-Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland). “It is our way of keeping their memories alive and to making sure that their service is never forgotten.”
On October 3, 1993, United States Army Rangers Dominick Pilla and Jamie Smith were 21-year-olds proudly serving their country in Mogadishu, Somalia nearly 8,000 miles from their New Jersey homes. Sgt. Pilla, from Vineland in Cumberland County, and Cpl. Smith, from Long Valley in Morris County, never returned to the U.S.
Both were killed–25 years ago today.
Sgt. Pilla was a member of an Army Ranger team deployed to the east African country to recover and extract fellow rangers from a downed Black Hawk helicopter. His convoy was ambushed, making him the first of 18 soldiers killed in the Battle of Mogadishu.
Cpl. Smith was deployed to Somalia to contain and capture warlords. During a raid on this mission, he and fellow rangers were on their way to the crash site of another Black Hawk that had been shot down. While en route, a bullet struck his leg, severing his femoral artery.
The deaths of both men were depicted in the 2001 motion picture, “Black Hawk Down.” Sgt. Pilla was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star with valor device and the Purple Heart. Cpl. Smith was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star with valor device, an Oak Cluster, and a Purple Heart.