29 March 2006

SFC Paul Ray Smith - Medal of Honor Recipient

To date, there has been only one Medal of Honor recipient in the Iraq War - Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith.

Ralph Kinney Bennett tells the story in today's Opinion Journal.

We join our Hero in the middle of a firefight near the Saddam Hussein International Airport in April of 2003:

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.

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.

As Spc. Seaman, crouching in the adjoining hatch, fed him ammunition belts, Sgt. Smith directed an expert and murderous fire with the long-barreled M2, hitting Iraqis who tried to enter the compound through the gate or over the wall. He tried also to suppress renewed fire coming from the Iraqis in the guard tower to his left.

Finally, one of his fellow sappers, First Sgt. Timothy Campbell, led a small fire team which stole up to the tower and killed all Iraqis inside. But by this time, Sgt. Smith's machine gun had fallen silent. The attack had been broken. Nearly 50 Iraqi dead lay all over the area. Others were in retreat.

Sgt. Smith's machine gun had fallen silent because he had been hit by one of the last bullets fired from that tower.

Sgt. Paul Ray Smith was killed in action on April 4, 2003, almost 3 years ago.

His wife and children received his Medal of Honor, our nations's highest decoration for bravery, from President Bush at the White House on April 4, 2005.

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