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Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith, the 3rd Infantry Division’s 51st Medal of Honor recipient was a husband, father, soldier and leader, but at Camp Victory, Iraq he was remembered simply as a hero.
U.S troops held a remembrance ceremony in the courtyard where five years ago 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 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
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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