SFC Paul Smith Receives Medal of Honor
SFC Paul R. Smith will today receive the Medal of Honor, posthumously. He is the first to be awarded the nation’s highest medal for gallantry since two Black Hawk Down heroes in 1993.
Sgt. First Class Paul R. Smith, killed nearly two years ago defending his vastly outnumbered Army unit in a fierce battle with elite Iraqi troops for control of Baghdad’s airport, will receive the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, administration officials said Tuesday. No soldier who served in Afghanistan or Iraq after the Sept. 11 attacks has yet received the medal. The last conflict to produce a Medal of Honor recipient was in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993; two soldiers were awarded the medal posthumously for actions there, later depicted in the movie “Black Hawk Down.”
Sergeant Smith led a defense of a compound next to the airport against a much larger force of Special Republican Guard troops, manning a heavy machine gun, repeatedly firing and reloading three times before he was mortally wounded. Fellow soldiers said his actions killed 20 to 50 Iraqis, allowed wounded American soldiers to be evacuated, and saved an aid station and perhaps 100 lives. Sergeant Smith’s “extraordinary heroism and uncommon valor without regard to his own life in order to save others are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service,” a draft of the medal citation says.
President Bush will present the award to Sergeant Smith’s widow and children at a White House ceremony on Monday, the second anniversary of the airport battle and the soldier’s death.
See my previous report, “SFC Paul R. Smith Awarded Medal of Honor” (Feb. 2) for photos and more background.