Captain Erik Anthes, 1HBCT transportation support operations officer, speaks to students, faculty and local residents of Paul R. Smith Middle School in Holiday, Fla., April 4.

Spc. Jared S. Eastman
1HBCT Public Affairs

HOLIDAY, Fla. - On a grassy lot of land, nestled between a high school and homes in Holiday, Fla., Paul R. Smith Middle School stands. Although most of the students know the story of Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith, the reality of his tale was brought home to them by a 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team Soldier from Iraq, April 4.

Captain Erik Anthes, 1HBCT transportation support operations officer, deployed with the brigade to Baghdad in Operation New Dawn and decided to bring home a piece of the Paul R. Smith tower to present to the school.

"I got the idea for this while we were in Baghdad," he said, "I saw the tower and learned that we were going to be taking pieces of it back. So I figured, he's from my hometown, so I'll see if I can get a hold of some pieces and bring them back."

The event was held eight years after Sgt. 1st Class Smith's death, and members from all over the community attended the event in the school's gymnasium, with about 200 students.

"We try to build an understanding that what those people are doing overseas is for us," said Dr. Chris Dunning, Paul R. Smith Middle School principal. "We have pictures and paintings around the school, which helps the kids remember who he was and to see who he was. But the biggest impact is in our social studies classes when our teachers tell his story and talk about current events overseas."

Sitting in the front row during the presentation was Mrs. Janice Pvirre, Sgt. 1st Class Smith's mother, who had been to this school before.

"When they dedicated this school we were here," she said, "and I was truly overwhelmed with the kindness and the love that everyone showed us. Because of what Paul did, I'm just praying that all the children that come through these doors will take a little piece of Paul with them. Paul was an ordinary boy, who grew up an ordinary kid. Just like all these kids here today. These kids need to know that every day they can do something great- no matter how small it is."

Also in attendance was Spc. Joseph Geiniman, 641st Regional Support Group, who had joined after hearing Smith's story.

"When I was ten years old I lived a few doors down from his brother and I saw the impact his death had on the Family Members," said Spc. Geiniman. "I decided I wanted to do something with my life and try to be half the man he was."

However, a person joining the military because of her son is bittersweet for Pvirre.

"It makes me very proud to hear other Soldiers' stories about how Paul has inspired them," she said. "I've kept up with some of Paul's Soldiers and unfortunately some of them have a lot of mental scars besides the emotional and physical scars. When I see young men and women joining the military because of my son, I have very mixed emotions. I want to say 'no, I don't want your parents to go through what we went through.' On the other hand, I'm so proud that they want to be like my Paul."

During the ceremony, many speakers made reference to Sgt. 1st Class Smith's leadership and attitude.

"He vowed to his Soldiers, after many long nights of hard training and meticulously drilling, that he would give 'all that I am to ensure that all my boys make it home'," said Capt. Anthes during his speech.

But in the eye's and heart of Pvirre, Sgt. 1st Class Smith would rather be the last person recognized for any extraordinary service.

"Everything that is being done for Paul," Pvirre said. "Paul never wanted recognition for anything he ever did, and I know that my boy is sitting up there on a cloud somewhere going, 'oh, you people are just making a big deal over nothing. I was just doing my job'. Well, Paul Ray ... job well done."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16