Monday, April 04, 2005

Sgt. Smith, American Hero

Forget about politicians and pundits and high-minded members of academia. Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith is a real hero. Today, President Bush will posthumously award the soldier with the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Fox News recalls the heroic efforts:
Soon after Smith and some of his platoon began work, records show, one trooper spotted dozens of armed Iraqis approaching from beyond the gated walls of the courtyard. Another group of Iraqis occupied a nearby tower.

Smith summoned a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and he and his troops gathered near the courtyard gate to fight the counterattack. An M113 armored personnel carrier joined the fray.

The Iraqis, perhaps as many as 100, attacked with rifles, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, or RPGs. Smith threw a grenade over a wall to drive back some of the Iraqis, then fired a rocket.

Incoming RPGs battered the Bradley, which retreated. Then a mortar struck the M113, wounding the three soldiers inside and leaving its heavy machine gun unmanned. After directing another soldier to pull the wounded M113 crewmen to safety, Smith climbed into the machine gun position and began firing at the tower and at the Iraqis trying to rush the compound.

His upper torso and head were exposed as he manned the gun.

"This wasn't a John Wayne move," said Command Sgt. Maj. Gary J. Coker, the top enlisted man in the 11th Battalion, who was near the battle. "He was very methodical. He knew he had the gate and he wasn't going to leave it and nobody was going to make him leave it."

Still, Coker said, "it was absolutely amazing to stand up in that volume of fire."

During a stretch of 15 minutes or longer, Smith fired more than 300 rounds as Pvt. Michael Seaman, protected inside the M113, passed him ammunition.

Then he was struck by enemy fire and mortally wounded. At almost the same time, 1st Sgt. Timothy Campbell ended the threat from the tower with a grenade, and the surviving Iraqis withdrew. Medics tried to save Smith, and he died about 30 minutes later.

He and his comrades are credited with killing between 20 and 50 Iraqi soldiers.

Beyond his position were American medics, scouts, a mortar unit and a command post — all lightly armed and vulnerable.

"Sgt. 1st Class Smith's actions saved the lives of at least 100 soldiers," according to an Army narrative.

God speed, Sgt. Smith. Your country is grateful and proud.

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2 comments:

mdmhvonpa said...

I've read about this true american hero a few times before, but it never gets old. It keeps the spirit alive in me every time I hear someone snipe about our men over there.

John said...

My humble salute to this hero!