After a hike on the Appalachian Trail that ended in Maine, Alley Smith fell in love with the state and moved here. At 26, she joined the Marines, kicking off a military career that’s included the Navy Reserves, a deployment to Kuwait and Afghanistan in 2013 and serving as a chaplain assistant in the Maine National Guard.

She works now in Lewiston helping homeless veterans. Smith is regional manager for Veterans Inc. and also sits on a dozen, mostly veteran-related boards.

“It’s a tremendous privilege to serve the communities,” said Smith, 36.

She grew up outside Pittsburgh. Her decision to enlist came from a desire to “travel before I got too old,” she said. “I really wanted a challenge. More importantly, I just really wanted to serve my country.”

And she did, for many years.

During her last deployment to Afghanistan, “I got rocketed, bombed and shot at so much that I wanted to leave my career in law enforcement to pursue an education in Christian ministry and become a chaplain assistant,” Smith said.

She’s finishing a master’s degree now in biblical studies.

“A lot of combat veterans deal with spiritual, emotional and moral injuries associated with war and combat, and I think it’s great training for me to pursue,” Smith said. “It’s definitely helpful in my work.”

Last month, she ran the Tough Ruck marathon outside Boston, running 27.4 miles while carrying 35 pounds of gear. It took over six hours. She ran in honor of four soldiers killed during her last deployment in Afghanistan.

“A very difficult experience,” Smith said.

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