Soldiers Remember Medal of Honor Recipient in Iraq
By Sgt. Jasmine Chopra, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq, Apr. 4, 2008 He was a husband, father, soldier and leader, but today Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith, the 3rd Infantry Division’s 51st Medal of Honor recipient was remembered here simply as a hero.
Task Force Marne soldiers who organized a remembrance ceremony for U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith, April 4, 2008, stand in the courtyard where Smith gave his life in defense of others five years ago. For his selfless service, Smith was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2005. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jasmine Chopra
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
U.S troops held a remembrance ceremony in the courtyard where five years ago to the day, Smith gave his life in defense of others.
On April 4, 2003, Smith was setting up a short-term enemy prisoner of war holding area near the Baghdad International Airport when his unit was attacked by enemy soldiers.
Outnumbered, with wounded soldiers and damaged vehicles, Smith told his men to get back, as he manned a .50-caliber machine gun from the exposed turret of an armored personnel carrier damaged by rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. He fired at the enemy and unleashed some 300 rounds allowing his other soldiers to reorganize and mount an attack. Smith and his men defeated the enemy. During the attack Smith fell mortally wounded.
A disciplined, no-nonsense platoon sergeant with the division’s Company B, 11th Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, Smith received the nation’s highest award for bravery in 2005.
“He was a soldier who took care of soldiers … he lost his life doing it,” said Brig. Gen. William Grimsley, who commanded the 1st Brigade Combat Team at the time of Smith’s death.
Now the deputy commander of the 4th Infantry Division, Grimsley recommended Smith for the Medal of Honor. He was one of several leaders who knew Smith and took time out from operations today in order to attend the ceremony.
In 2003, Capt. Christopher Doerr, of the 3rd Infantry Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Special Troops Battalion, was a 23-year-old brand-new second lieutenant.
“I’ll always treasure the fact I got to serve with and know Sgt. 1st Class Smith,” Doerr said.
He admired Smith’s expertise, precision and dedication to mission accomplishment.
“He was an expert engineer, the best in the battalion,” Doerr said. “The way he motivated his soldiers, they didn’t necessarily like him, he wasn’t their friend, but he made them train to standard.
“It all makes sense now, why he pushed us, why we did the things we did. Now we are here because of that,” Doerr said.
Smith had been in combat when he was a young private first class in Desert Storm. In Kuwait, just days before invading Iraq, Doerr asked Smith to tell him what war was going to be like.
“He said, ‘war is hell,’ and he showed me that first hand,” Doerr said. “He laid it all on the line and that was not a fluke … he was concerned for the safety of his men and others and he put that above his own personal safety, and I think you’ve got to say he’s a hero for that.”
More than 200 people attended the remembrance ceremony, including Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of Multi-National Corps – Iraq, who in 2003 was the deputy commander for maneuver for the 3rd Infantry Division.
Large-scale pictures showed Sgt. 1st Class Smith in desert camouflage uniform days before the battle. Diagrams, mounted on an armored personnel carrier like the one Smith used, detailed his heroic action. Visible from the courtyard was the bullet-riddled tower that the enemy had fought for but failed to seize.
A bugler played Taps and, after the ceremony, soldiers walked the site and reflected on the sacrifice he had made for our country.
(U.S. Army Sgt. Sgt. Jasmine Chopra is assigned to the Multinational Division - Center Public Affairs Office.)