COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A progressive veterans' group is endorsing Democratic state Rep. James Smith in the South Carolina's governor's race.

Vote Vets PAC tells The Associated Press on Wednesday that Smith, who served in Afghanistan, is "the very definition of what a patriotic public servant is."

Smith was a JAG officer in the US Army Reserve and South Carolina Army National Guard but resigned his commission after the Sept. 11 attacks to enlist in the infantry.

Smith says he is "incredibly honored and humbled" by the group's backing. Vote Vets describes its mission as primarily helping elect Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran candidates and educating about veterans and military issues.

Smith, Charleston consultant Phil Noble and Florence attorney Marguerite Willis face off in next Tuesday's Democratic primary.