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Trooper who lost his sight speaks to help others overcome traumatic events

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - He has lived through some of life's most traumatic experiences including losing his sight and his children yet he has moved forward with a purpose to help others overcome adversity. Former Louisiana State trooper Bobby Smith shared his story with Mahoning Valley officers at Youngstown State University Tuesday night.

March 14, 1986 started like any other day for Louisiana State trooper Bobby Smith.

Then during a drug interdiction detail a heavy drug user, who he's told was enamored with the character of John Rambo, changed his life.

"When I pulled this car over at 11:30 p.m. at night he stepped out with a 12 gauge shotgun shooting and I returned fire and the suspect was killed in the exchange of gunfire and I was shot in the face and totally blinded. It would turn my life upside down," Smith said.

Smith lost his eyesight, career and marriage at a time when law enforcement's message was to suck it up. He feels progress has been made in changing that attitude, which he now preaches to officers and their families.

"It's OK for big boys to cry. It's ok to ask for help as a police officer. It's not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength."

He went on to earn a masters degree in exercise physiology and a doctorate in counseling psychology, author three books, remarry and overcome even more adversity.

"Thirteen years ago my daughter was killed in a traffic accident, three years ago my son in college died of a drug overdose and things don't make sense but even when I talk about the loss of my sight and my career and my children, there have been positive things come from that not for me but for cops all over the country."

Smith's mother died when he was ten but her sense of optimism has stayed with him. He sends home the message during his speech to not take life for granted because you don't know what tomorrow will bring.

Smith is currently a motivational speaker and director of the Louisiana State Police Troopers Assistance Program.

He founded the FORTE Foundation which stands for Foundation for Officers Recovering from Traumatic Events in Baton Rouge. He is also starting a "Badges Coffee Club" in Baton Rouge that will be a model for across the country.

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