3rd ID engineer to receive the Medal of Honor

Discussion in 'Veteran's Forum' started by Bonk, Feb 3, 2005.

  1. Bonk

    Millennium Member

    Found this on arf.com, can't find the original link

    Iraq hero joins hallowed group

    President Bush will present America's top award for bravery to the family of the sergeant who died defending his soldiers.

    By ALEX LEARY, Times Staff Writer
    Published February 2, 2005.

    Sgt. Paul Smith (right) is the first soldier from the Iraq war to get the medal, which hadn't been awarded since 1993.

    Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith, who spent his boyhood in Tampa, became a man in the Army and died outside Baghdad defending his outnumbered soldiers from an Iraqi attack, will receive America's highest award for bravery.

    President Bush will present the Medal of Honor to Smith's wife, Birgit, and their children Jessica, 18, and David, 10, at a ceremony at the White House, possibly in March.

    The official announcement will come soon, but the Pentagon called Mrs. Smith with the news Tuesday afternoon.

    "We had faith he was going to get it," Mrs. Smith said from her home in Holiday, "but the phone call was shocking. It was overwhelming. My heart was racing, and I got sweaty hands. I yelled, "Oh, yes!' ... I'm still all shaky.

    "People know what's he's done ... people know that to get a Medal of Honor you have to be a special person or do something really great."

    What Paul Smith did on April 4, 2003, was climb aboard an armored vehicle and, manning a heavy machine gun, take it upon himself to cover the withdrawal of his men from a suddenly vulnerable position. Smith was fatally wounded by Iraqi fire, the only American to die in the engagement.

    "I'm in bittersweet tears," said Smith's mother, Janice Pvirre. "The medal isn't going to bring him back. ... It makes me sad that all these other soldiers have died. They are all heroes."

    With the medal, Smith joins a most hallowed society.

    Since the Civil War, just 3,439 men (and one woman) have received the Medal of Honor. It recognizes only the most extreme examples of bravery - those "above and beyond the call of duty."

    That oft-heard phrase has a specific meaning: The medal cannot be given to those who act under orders, no matter how heroic their actions. Indeed, according to Library of Congress defense expert David F. Burrelli, it must be "the type of deed which, if he had not done it, would not subject him to any justified criticism."

    From World War II on, most of the men who received the medal died in the action that led to their nomination. There are but 129 living recipients.

    Smith is the first soldier from the Iraq war to receive the medal, which had not previously been awarded since 1993. In that year, two Army Special Services sergeants were killed in Somalia in an action described in the bestselling book Black Hawk Down.

    The officer who called Birgit Smith on Tuesday nominated her husband for the medal.

    Lt. Col. Thomas Smith (no relation) sent in his recommendation in May 2003, beginning a process that involved reviews at 12 levels of the military chain of command before reaching the White House. On Tuesday, Lt. Col. Smith expressed satisfaction that the wait was over, and great admiration for his former subordinate.

    In the Army, he said, you hear about men who won the Medal of Honor. "You think they are myths when you read about them. It's almost movielike. You just don't think you'd ever meet someone like that."

    Paul Smith, he said, was not a "soft soldier" who suddenly got tough under fire. "This was a guy whose whole life experience seemed building toward putting him in the position where he could do something like this. He was demanding on his soldiers all the time and was a stickler for all the things we try to enforce. It's just an amazing story."

    Lt. Col. Smith commanded the 11th Engineer Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, during the American attack on Iraq, which began March 20, 2003. On the morning of April 4, the engineers found themselves manning a roadblock not far from Baghdad International Airport.

    A call went out for a place to put some Iraqi prisoners.

    Sgt. Smith volunteered to create a holding pen inside a walled courtyard. Soon, Iraqi soldiers, numbering perhaps 100, opened fire on Smith's position. Smith was accompanied by 16 men.

    Smith called for a Bradley, a tank-like vehicle with a rapid fire cannon. It arrived and opened up on the Iraqis. The enemy could not advance so long as the Bradley was in position. But then, in a move that baffled and angered Smith's men, the Bradley left.

    Smith's men, some of whom were wounded, were suddenly vulnerable.

    Smith could have justifiably ordered his men to withdraw. Lt. Col. Smith believes Sgt. Smith rejected that option, thinking that abandoning the courtyard would jeopardize about 100 GIs outside - including medics at an aid station.

    Sgt. Smith manned a 50-caliber machine gun atop an abandoned armored personnel carrier and fought off the Iraqis, going through several boxes of ammunition fed to him by 21-year-old Pvt. Michael Seaman. As the battle wound down, Smith was hit in the head. He died before he could be evacuated from the scene. He was 33.

    The Times published a lengthy account of the battle, and Smith's life in January 2004. It can be seen at www.sptimes.com/paulsmith

    Sgt. Matthew Keller was one of the men who fought with Smith in the courtyard. "He put himself in front of his soldiers that day and we survived because of his actions," Keller said Tuesday from Fort Stewart in Georgia. "He was thinking my men are in trouble and I'm going to do what is necessary to help them. He didn't care about his own safety."

    Some of the men who fought alongside Smith were sent back to Iraq last month. Keller, 26, is scheduled to return Feb. 15, but was scrambling Tuesday to delay his deployment to attend the medal ceremony in Washington.

    "I want to be there to support the family and show thanks for what Sgt. Smith did," Keller said.

    Mrs. Smith moved to Holiday after her husband's death, to be near his parents. Her daughter, Jessica, recently moved out on her own and is thinking about going to college. Son David is a fifth-grader at Sunray Elementary School in Holiday.

    "From the beginning (David) didn't show much feelings, keeping to himself," Mrs. Smith said. "He thinks if he brings it up it will make me sad. He's trying to be the strong one. The day Paul left for Iraq he told David, "You're the man in the house now.'

    "Paul is not forgotten," she said. "He's part of history now. It makes me feel proud, so honored that I was allowed to be part of Paul's life. Even today he's probably laughing at all of us, saying "You're making way too big a deal out of me.'

    "He did what he had to do to protect his men, not to get a medal."

    Wanna kill these ads? We can help!
  2. fnfalman

    fnfalman Chicks Dig It

    Sgt. Smith manned a 50-caliber machine gun atop an abandoned armored personnel carrier and fought off the Iraqis,

    A modern day Audie Murphy, except that he wasn't quite as lucky. Hoo-ah!!! Sappers all the way, Sarge!

  3. I hope this isn't another PR stunt by Bush. If that were the case, it would be a crying shame to use that brave man like that.
  4. WIG19

    WIG19 Light left on

    Any MOH presentation is going to be a photo-op for whomever occupies the position of CinC. There isn't a single President that doesn't use it in some manner to reinforce their position. But it started with the recommendation at the unit level. Forget about it; it's not about the occupant of the White House. To focus on anything other than SFC Smith denigrates his sacrifice.
  5. RussP


    Are you saying the CinC "fixed" the MOH presentation as a PR stunt?
  6. Let's not turn this posting about a slain soldier into a political debate. Start a new thread for that please.

    Godspeed SFC Smith!
  7. Has anyone seen anything official about this? Not that I don't think that SFC SMith deserves the MOH. It's just that from what I have gathered his Commanding Officer may have jumped the gun on this.

    Can anyone post an official (as in DOD or DA) announcement on this?
  8. Hard to say, but I would not count it out.
  9. RussP


    erikd65, as one Air Force Veteran to another, I think you are wrong.

    We have two sons in the military. One is a Major in the Army Reserves who fought with the 101st in Desert Storm. He was awarded the Bronze Star with "V" for Valor.

    The other is my first born, a 1stLt with the Texas National Guard, 36th ID, 56th BCT now in Iraq. He always knew he would join the military. He wanted Air Force, so he graduated with a degree in aeronautical engineering, but when they told him his eyes would not let him fly, he went Army Reserve. After a couple years he decided to opt out, but after 9/11, he reenlisted in the Guard, "In case they need me, Dad," is what he said.

    Well, now they need him. His unit is responsible for convoy escorts in southern Iraq.

    erikd65, with that background, let me tell you that I would expect my son to do what Sgt Smith did, put himself in a position to protect his Soldiers. When I told him to be carefull, I guess my tone of voice had an edge, because he answered, "Dad, if there is a critical mission that I know my team can do better than anyone else, would you want me to send anyone else?"

    erikd65, as a photographer I had the opportunity to attend medal award ceremonies and in every case, the receipient was humble, and those making the presentation were proud and evocative. The higher the award, the higher the rank of the presenter, and somtimes there were more than one who wanted to "talk" about the receipient. Often, they had lots of stars on their shoulders when it was the DFC, or Silver Star and definitely for the Air Force Cross.

    If either of our sons were put in the position to perform at the extraordinary level that someone believed The Medal of Honor was appropriate, trust me, I would be disappointed if the Commander In Chief did NOT want to make the presentation. It is the highest honor this nation can bestow. Shouldn't the ceremony be presided over by the CinC? I think yes.

    Sgt Smith paid the ultimate price defending his soldiers. Lets honor him and every other American serving and sacrificing by allowing them to be given due honor and respect.

  10. Isn't it amazing just how hypocratic the anti-Bush people are? If he were to award a well-deserving soldier the MOH, he is milking the PR opportunity. If he were to opt out of the award ceremony, he would be labelled as an uncaring person.

    If anything convinced me that this POTUS actually cares about the troops, it was when he secretly flew into Baghdad to actually SERVE the troops Thanksgiving Dinner back in 2003(?). While Hillary and her entourage made the troops wait, and cut in front of the mess line, The President of the United States actually got behing the chow line and served up teh food. As someone who was taught to let his troops ahead of myself, this speaks volumes.

    Anyone who is willing to do risk his very own life to help life the morale of our troops; is probably not the type of person to award a MOH just for publicity's sake. JM2CW.
  11. WIG19

    WIG19 Light left on

    This is not conjecture. She despises the military, period. Make no mistake about that. If elected she would not only be a chief executive who never served but one who detests those who guard her walls. She deserves no further space in this thread.
  12. txleapd

    txleapd Hook 'Em Up

    "Sgt. Smith manned a 50-caliber machine gun atop an abandoned armored personnel carrier and fought off the Iraqis, going through several boxes of ammunition fed to him by 21-year-old Pvt. Michael Seaman."

    Not to change the subject, but it sounds like Private Seaman had some balls on him too... I wonder if he's getting anything. IMHO he deserves some recognition also.
  13. RussP


    Everyone needs to read and listen to what is on this site.


    From a letter sent to his parents, Smith wrote, "There are two ways to come home, stepping off the plane and being carried off the plane. It doesn't matter how I come home because I am prepared to give all that I am to ensure that all my boys make it home."

    Well, he did.

    ;w ;? ;w

  14. RussP


    I agree, I haven't found anything on Seaman, yet...Got sidetracked with this website...
  15. God bless SFC Smith, his kind are a rare breed even within our ranks. He should be a shining example to all of us.

  16. RussP



  17. Daver308

    Daver308 In Charge

  18. This one put a tear in my eye:

    From a soldier's girlfriend:

    "My boyfriend, PV2 Waak, was there the day SFC Smith died ... and tells me the stories of that day. I, along with Waak, believe that Paul saved their lives that day, and while I am saddened, even heartbroken, that you lost the love of your life, I am (grateful) for him being there, so I can have mine back."

    Soldiers don't earn the MOH for the prestige, movie contracts, or the title. They do it for their comrades, their brothers-in-arms.

  19. RussP


    Amen Carlos...
  20. Sapperstang

    Sapperstang Paratrooper

    ;? Sappers lead the way.

Share This Page