Anne Smedinghoff, River Forest native, U.S. diplomat remembered, honored

Twenty-five year old woman killed in Afghanistan after car struck by IED

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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

Anne Smedinghoff was killed trying to do what she loved — helping others.

Just 25 years old, the River Forest native and U.S. diplomat in southern Afghanistan had her dreams cut short Saturday when her group's vehicle was struck by a bomb while traveling to deliver books to a local school.

Smedinghoff, a U.S. Foreign Service officer serving in Zabul Province, was among five Americans killed in a roadside bomb that the U.S. State Department described as a Taliban attack.

The remains of the young diplomat arrived back in the U.S. Monday. A special ceremony was held at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, according to multiple media reports. The service was private and the family was expected to be in attendance.

According to her parents, Tom and Mary Beth, Anne was a person who embraced life and worked for others.

"The world lost a truly beautiful soul today," her parents said in a written statement. They said the diplomatic profession was a perfect fit for their daughter and she loved what she did.

"Working as a public diplomacy officer, she particularly enjoyed the opportunity to work directly with the Afghan people and was always looking for opportunities to reach out and help to make a difference in the lives of those living in a country ravaged by war," the statement read. "We are consoled knowing that she was doing what she loved, and that she was serving her country by helping to make a positive difference in the world. She was such a wonderful woman — strong, intelligent, independent, and loving. Annie, you left us too soon; we love you and we're going to miss you so much."

Smedinghoff was a 2005 Fenwick High School graduate who went on to study at Johns Hopkins University before joining the Foreign Service right out of college. Afghanistan was her second assignment; her first was in Caracas, Venezuela.

Richard Borsch, associate principal for student services at Fenwick, took time Monday to look back at a recommendation letter to Johns Hopkins. The letter referenced her desire to engage in public service at a young age.

"She wound up doing that, not only in high school but in her life," Borsch said. "She was an exceptional young woman."

He said Smedinghoff was a wonderful student who graduated with honors while being involved in many activities, including service clubs and the International Relations Club. She even took time last year to come back to her old stomping grounds to speak to students in classes and clubs about careers in public service.

In the parents' most recent conversation with their daughter, on Easter Sunday, Mary Beth said they spoke about their daughter's interaction with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, whom Smedinghoff assisted during his recent visit to the country.

In a State Department news release, Kerry offered his condolences on Smedinghoff's death. He called the family Saturday morning to inform them of the news.

"Our State Department family is grieving over the loss of one of our own, an exceptional young Foreign Service officer, killed today in an IED attack in Zabul Province, along with service members, a Department of Defense civilian and Afghan civilians," Kerry wrote in the release. "Just last week in Kabul, I met our fallen officer when she was selected to support me during my visit to Afghanistan. She was everything a Foreign Service officer should be: smart, capable, eager to serve and deeply committed to our country and the difference she was making for the Afghan people. She tragically gave her young life working to give young Afghans the opportunity to have a better future."

Kerry also spoke over the weekend about the tragedy.

"A brave American was determined to brighten the light of learning through books written in the native tongue of students she had never met but whom she felt compelled to help," Kerry said, according to a State Department transcript of his remarks. "She was met by cowardly terrorists determined to bring darkness and death to total strangers."

Outside Smedinghoff's River Forest home and throughout the neighborhood, there are American flags and white ribbons tied to trees to honor her service and life. Grace Episcopal Church of Oak Park has also organized people via Facebook to remind them to place white ribbons to honor her and all killed in acts of violence.

Contact:
Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

Reader Comments

13 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 12th, 2013 7:17 PM

I experienced the same emotion, Denise. In to addition to the parkway and yard trees wrapped in white ribbons, a number of River Forest residents are also displaying the American flag. A very moving tribute by the community to honor a brave young woman and demonstrate support for her family and friends.

Denise Wells from Oak Park   

Posted: April 12th, 2013 1:04 AM

We drove through River Forest on 4-10, and it was very stunning to see the many, many trees tied with white ribbons. Such a touching and memorable gesture.

Marian Garrigan from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 5:28 PM

It is a real tragedy to lose a bright and brave young woman whose selflessness took her into foreign service. My heart breaks for the Smedinghoffs and for every person in the community who watched her grow up. I think the book drive is a very fitting tribute to a girl who loved to read as she did. Please publicize the drive, so more can participate in Anne's honor.

Susan Lucci from River Forest  

Posted: April 10th, 2013 9:59 AM

In memory of Anne, a sweet, soulful ambassador of peace for whom we now wrap white ribbons around trees so as to remember her vision of peace and possibility. Every tree on every block of this small, saddened village stands strong, waiving a white salute and surrender, signaling that we too have lost a neighbor, a daughter, a friend. Anne was our ambassador, bravely bringing books - her optimistic offering of a future beyond borders, bombs, and bans on educational freedom. The next step is ours.

Adam Wallace from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 11:25 PM

I was so sad to hear we lost 6 Americans on Saturday, when I heard it was a River Forest resident it really hit home. She won't be forgotten. Our nation appreciates her bravery and willingness to serve. God bless you and your family!

Mary Beth smith from Elmwood park   

Posted: April 8th, 2013 10:53 PM

My ribbons and flags in Anne's memory will stay in place until the last American is home from Afghanistan... Love them all.

Jane Hedges from Oak Park  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 8:25 PM

It truly breaks my heart to see young people who want to help others lost because they are trying to help others. My heart goes out to you and your family. I didn't know her,but I can say,you raised a wonderful, loving daughter. Thank you for doing that. Jane Hedges

Mike Lennox from Oak Park  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 7:13 PM

Sorry for your loss. When one family member is in the service, the whole family is in the service with them. Thank you for your service. God Bless

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 3:51 PM

She's in our prayers.

Greg from RF  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 3:31 PM

So Sad...so inspirational...so difficult to image as a father...so uniquely American. My heart and prayers are with the family and friends.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 3:18 PM

A brave and wonderful soul lost at too young an age. She gave her life trying to help people and will be remembered for her dedication and sacrifice. Condolences to her family and friends. I recently watched a report that detailed how the Taliban is now using children as suicide bombers. These innocents are being led to believe by the mullahs that the explosives strapped to their bodies will not harm them or that they must comply with the command in order to reach paradise. A very sick and twisted practice and one clearly outlawed in the Quran.

The Rev. Shawn Schreiner from Oak Park  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 2:44 PM

Join the members of Grace Church with Ribbons Against Violence: https://www.facebook.com/events/617838831566352/

Alison Ohlhoff  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 2:39 PM

Our thoughts and prayers are with Anne's family and friends. It sounds like she was truly an outstanding young woman.

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