Hastings native John Smyrski III has gone far since graduating high school in 1981.
He joined the Army, graduated college, attended medical school and most recently commanded the William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas — one of the Army's busiest hospitals — for two years. The colonel relinquished command of the medical center at a ceremony in July.
Throughout his travels, Smyrski said he has carried the values he learned from his hometown.
"Growing up in Hastings taught me that people are important," he wrote in an email. "The small town environment teaches the value of personal relationships, and to treat everyone with dignity and respect."
Smyrski was presented with the Legion of Merit award prior to the change of command ceremony. The Legion of Merit is the military's sixth highest award.
The outgoing command team oversaw a number of accomplishments at William Beaumont Army Medical Center, including achieving the Army Safety Management System Safety Star designation.
"Safety is the foundation for taking care of your employees as well as your patients," Smyrski wrote. "We became the Army's only medical center within the continental U.S. to earn this distinguished recognition."
He added: "Leading nearly 4,000 military and civilian employees in this culture-change journey is what I am most proud of during my time in command."