Medal of Honor Recipient
Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith, posthumous Medal of Honor recipient with B Company, 11th Engineer Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, shown here days before the battle in which he gave his life.

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq - He was a husband, father, Soldier and leader, but on April 4, Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith, the 3rd Infantry Division's 51st Medal of Honor recipient, was remembered simply as a hero.

A remembrance ceremony was held in the courtyard where five years ago to the day, Smith gave his life in defense of others.

He 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 attack. During the attack Smith fell mortally wounded.

A disciplined, no-nonsense platoon sergeant with Company B, 11th Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Inf. Div., Smith was bestowed the highest award for bravery in 2005, the Medal of Honor.

"He was a Soldier who took care of Soldiers ... he lost his life doing it," said Brig. Gen. William Grimsley, who at the time of Smith's death was the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division commander.

Grimsley, now the deputy commander of the 4th Infantry Division, recommended Smith for the Medal of Honor and was one of several leaders who knew Smith and took a pause from operations today in order to attend the ceremony.

In 2003, Capt. Christopher Doerr, of Headquarters and Headquarters Operations Company, Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Inf. Div., 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 ... he was concerned for the safety of his men and others and he put that above his own personal safety, and I think you've got to say he's a hero for that."

More than 200 people attended the remembrance ceremony, including Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq, who in 2003 was the deputy commander for maneuver for the 3rd Infantry Division.

Large-scale pictures showed Sgt. 1st Class Smith in desert camouflage uniform days before the battle. Diagrams, mounted on an armored personnel carrier like the one Smith used, detailed his heroic action. Visible from the courtyard was the bullet-riddled tower that the enemy had fought but failed to seize. A bugler played Taps and, after the ceremony, Soldiers walked the site and reflected on the sacrifice Smith made for the country.

Page last updated Sat April 5th, 2008 at 13:24