As you gaze around the room, there’s not a stand out, just beautifully dressed people engaged in social chit chat. The environment is decorated in a theme appropriate manner and everyone looks happy and carefree.
As you approach Wayne Smith he fits in just as the others do, pleased to enjoy the moment and not a care in the world.
Talking with Wayne is easy as he is outgoing, friendly to everyone and well versed on a variety of topics. Wayne however is not just like everyone else: he is remarkable, as in worthy to be remarked about.
Originally from Kentucky he graduated from the Air Force Academy and became a weapons test pilot, served in Southeast Asia and later flew 90 F-4 combat missions over North Vietnam and Laos. It was miraculous that he survived five years and two months as a POW and was repatriated in March of 1973.
This five year experience is the stuff that movies are made of, action thrillers and a version of hell. Those of us who haven’t served in the military can’t imagine this situation and very few would have the courage to live through it. Wayne has been awarded honors for service in combat including two Silver Stars, The Legion of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Bronze “V” Stars, seven Air Medals and The Purple Heart.
Wayne’s demeanor shows no indication of his incredible history, understated and humble, just doing his job he’ll tell you. Wayne continued his love of flying by working for Eastern Air Lines as a B 727 pilot prior to transitioning into the corporate world, where once again his integrity and leadership skills were sought.
Wayne has led others as President and COO of BF Goodrich and prior to that he was CEO of BOC group for the U.S., Canada, Mexico and South America. Wayne has extensive business expertise and is mentioned in leadership and management reference books: such as The Change Management Handbook: A road to Corporate Transformation (pg 472- 473) and The Paradox Principles: How High Performance Companies Manage Chaos, Complexity and Contradiction to Achieve Superior Results (pg 146-148).
Wayne retired in 1999 from his professional career and has lived in Naples since. Just as many executives do when they move here; he has repurposed his skills and uses them to benefit his other passion, Veterans Affairs. He serves on the Board of Directors of DVIC, Disabled Veterans Insurance Careers, and a nonprofit organization with the mission to educate, train and create meaningful employment opportunities within the insurance industry for Disabled Veterans.
He enjoys meeting and listening to WWII Veterans tell their story or giving speeches around the state. He served as the Honorary Chair for the inaugural Collier County Honor Flight and is currently involved in the Naples Spirit of ’45, Peter Thomas History Fund which is housed at the Holocaust Museum of SWFL. He also values his role in working with Victory Florida, a 2015 state wide promotion to highlight Florida’s Role in WWII. Retired Captain Wayne Smith, United States Air Force, stand in honor of his service, stand in honor of this man.
Welcome this Officer and Gentleman to the Winners Circle, Naples Style.