Munsen's son-in-law injured overseasOn game nights, Mitchell High School boys’ basketball coach Gary Munsen normally shuts off his cell phone well before the start of the varsity game. Tuesday night in Aberdeen, Munsen’s phone was on the entire night. Prior to the Kernels’ game against Aberdeen Central, Munsen learned his son-in-law, Fred Smith, had been injured in a roadside bomb attack while serving in Afghanistan.
On game nights, Mitchell High School boys’ basketball coach Gary Munsen normally shuts off his cell phone well before the start of the varsity game.
Tuesday night in Aberdeen, Munsen’s phone was on the entire night.
Prior to the Kernels’ game against Aberdeen Central, Munsen learned his son-in-law, Fred Smith, had been injured in a roadside bomb attack while serving in Afghanistan.
“I usually shut my phone off at halftime of the sophomore game, but I get this call and I can’t hear because of the noise in the gym,” Munsen said Wednesday. “So I walk in the lobby and I can hear someone crying but they can’t talk, and I look at my phone and it’s my daughter’s number.”
The call got disconnected, and when Munsen called back, his daughter Stacey’s friend answered the phone.
“She asked what I was doing and I said, ‘I’m in Aberdeen coaching … we’re playing tonight,’ ” Munsen said. “I said, ‘What’s the matter,’ and she said, ‘Well Fred got hurt pretty bad.’ ”
Smith, a first sergeant in the Marines, was with four others on a patrol mission when the roadside bomb exploded.
“I was just kind of stunned, I guess,” Munsen said. “(Stacey’s friend) didn’t know how bad his injuries were. I left my phone on the rest of the night and they called me with reports every half hour.”
Munsen said he took several phone calls during the game, and that his players knew something had happened.
“The kids know Fred and they knew something was up,” he said. “(Assistant coach Craig) Mock told them he was hurt. I got a ride home from a parent and came home and I was up half the night talking to people in Hawaii.”
Smith suffered a concussion, has some back problems and shrapnel in his body. One of the men he was with was transferred to a hospital in Germany in critical condition and the other three were taken to the same hospital as Smith. One man has already been released.
Smith, a star running back for Dakota Wesleyan University in the late 1980s and early 1990s, is on his fourth tour of duty. He joined the Marines shortly after graduating from DWU. He is stationed out of Hawaii, which is where his wife, Stacey, and three of their four children live. Their fourth child, former Mitchell Kernel Alex Smith, attends Augustana College in Sioux Falls.
“Today, I got a voice mail from Fred,” Munsen said Wednesday. “He was kind of slurring his words, because I’m sure he’s under medication, but the reports I got were better. He’s a typical military man; says he’s going to recover and that everything will be all right.”
Munsen said Smith, who has been in the Marines for 22 years, will not be sent home until May or June, when his tour is over.
Munsen has been coaching basketball for 44 years and told The Daily Republic this week that his son-in-law’s injury has reminded him of what is important in life.
“I love basketball, I love sports and I love to win, but this puts (life) in perspective,” he said.
The Kernels end the regular season today with a game against Brandon Valley in Brandon.
Munsen, who has missed just two games in all his years of coaching, will take the floor with his team.