There are no words to convey the bravery and fortitude of this man, so I will let his story speak for itself.
Tags: military, heros, Medal of Honor
Since his days growing up in Tampa, Fla., the lanky kid with the slightly mischievous smile had wanted to be a soldier. By this bright morning, April 4, 2003, Sgt. First Class Paul Ray Smith had more than fulfilled his dream. He had served 15 of his 33 years in the U.S. Army, including three tours of duty in harm's way--in the Persian Gulf, Bosnia and Kosovo.It was a fierce fight in which many Iraqi Republican guards were killed and many American soldiers were injured, but Sgt. Smith and his "sappers" didn't give up.
Now all his training, all his experience, all the instincts that had made him a model soldier, were about to be put to the test. With 16 men from his First Platoon, B Company, 11th Engineer Battalion, Sgt. Smith was under attack by about 100 troops of the Iraqi Republican Guard.
"We're in a world of hurt," he muttered.
That "world" was a dusty, triangular walled compound about half the size of a football field, near the Saddam Hussein International Airport, 11 miles from Baghdad. Sgt. Smith's engineers, or "sappers," had broken through the 10-foot-high concrete-block southern wall with a military bulldozer and begun turning the compound into a temporary "pen" for Iraqi prisoners as U.S. forces pressed their attack on the airport.
While they were working, guards posted at a small aluminum gate in the north corner of the triangle had spotted the large Iraqi force approaching the compound from the north and west. Sgt. Smith had just run up to join the guards when all hell broke loose. They came under furious fire from machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Under intense fire, Sgt. Smith's men heroically extracted all three wounded crewmen from the APC. Sgt. Smith then entered the vehicle, ordering Spc. Michael Seaman to join him as driver and "keep me loaded" with ammo belts. Sgt. Smith popped up out of the turret hatch and grabbed the grips of the .50-caliber machine gun mounted on top.He kept firing, despite the danger and against the odds, so that the wounded could be pulled to safety. It also allowed a small fire team to get up into the tower to take out the Iraqis there. And then it was over...
The Iraqis were practically on top of him. Coolly grasping the situation, Sgt. Smith ordered Spc. Seaman to back the APC south into the compound to a position half way down the eastern wall. There he could arc the big machine gun back and forth, from the gate entrance to the north, all along the western wall of the triangle, to the Iraqi occupied tower in the southwest corner to his left.
To fire the machine gun, Sgt. Smith had to stand in the APC's main hatch, his body exposed from the waist up to a withering fire coming at him from three directions. On the ground through the blur of combat, Sgt. Matthew Keller saw Sgt. Smith grimly firing measured bursts from atop the APC even as a hail of bullets hit around him.
Sgt. Keller yelled at him to get out. Sgt. Smith looked back at him and with a slight shake of his head, made a cutting motion across his throat with his right hand. Sgt. Keller would always remember the look in his eyes. "There was no fear in him whatsoever."
"Sapper Seven," the wiry, hollow-cheeked guy who had been so hard on his men in training, so exacting, so insistent on "doing it right"; the guy who had led them into battle on the first day of the war with a rock-'n'-roll tape blaring from his Humvee; the guy who had personally got down on his knees in front of their convoy to patiently, carefully extract the deadly mines when they ran into a minefield near the Karbala Gap, was dead.Exactly two years later his wife, Birgit whom Paul met and married while on tour in Europe in 1992, and their two children, David and Jessica, stood with President Bush in the White House as she was presented with Paul's Medal of Honor. It is his own words which honor his sacrifice and give some comfort to his loved ones:
"There are two ways to come home, stepping off the plane and being carried off the plane," Sgt. Smith had written in an unsent email to his parents. "It doesn't matter how I come home, because I am prepared to give all that I am to insure that all my boys make it home." He had been the only American killed in the courtyard fight. Opinion Journal
Tags: military, heros, Medal of Honor