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April 4, is the anniversary of the death of SFC Paul Ray Smith, the first recipient of the Medal of Honor KIA in Iraq in 2003.
Composure in the line of fireHere is an animated video version of the events on the day Smith was killed.
The consequences were dire. If Smith's troops broke, the Iraqi troops would be able to move potentially unimpeded from the courtyard gate all the way to a nearby command center, flanking a mortar unit, and overrunning a station that held both the wounded and several embedded journalists.
Specialist Medrano was among the soldiers trying to get the wounded soldiers out of the damaged personnel carrier and down the road to the aid station. During his three years in the Army, he had spent all but a few months under Smith, subject to his meticulous weapons checks but also a witness to another side of the hardened soldier - a side that sometimes cracked jokes, a side that stayed up nights in Kosovo talking with Medrano about family, a side of a sergeant that embraced a lowly specialist.
"All the training I did, and all the things I learned were from him," he says. "He was always trying to take care of you."
At that moment, as Medrano was lifting one of the wounded to safety, he glanced up at Smith, who was now manning the gun atop the personnel carrier. "We made eye contact, and he just waved me off," says Medrano. "He was telling me to take care of these people."
With the help of several other soldiers, Smith backed the vehicle into the courtyard so that he could cover both the tower and the gate. For perhaps 10 minutes, he fired more than 300 rounds to prevent the Iraqi forces from spilling through the bulldozer-made hole in the wall and on to the command center.
"Not all soldiers would jump on top of a vehicle that has already gotten hit while bloody people are being taken out of it," says Medrano. "He did it because he knew if he didn't, we would get slaughtered."
Led by another sergeant, Medrano and two other soldiers used Smith's covering fire to move cautiously to the base of the tower, where they took out the Iraqi soldiers. But by that time, Smith's gun, too, had fallen silent. He had been shot in the head, the only US fatality in the firefight.
Thanks to his fellow Dog Faced Soldier, CJ who has more
May he never be forgotten.
Thank You!Posted by vet66 at April 3, 2008 01:23 PM
This is why we award the medal of honor. Because men like this give their lives to save their buddys and families in the U.S.Posted by Derek at April 3, 2008 03:08 PM
My daughter read this and was unable to respond and asked me to. Paul was her uncle, she was very small when he met her, so her only insight to him is me. Thank you from both of us in referance to this site.
Bless all of those still so far away from home,
we will never forget.