Medal of Honor Awarded to Iraqi War Hero

It is with both great sadness and great pride that we honor the first recipient of the Medal of Honor in the Iraq operation. President Bush posthumously awarded Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith our nation’s highest honor of valor today — exactly two years from the day Smith gave his life for his men. The military credits Smith, 33, with saving at least 100 lightly-armed men in the push towards Baghdad. Unprotected and outgunned, Smith stayed at the .50-Cal. machinegun — beating back an advancing Iraqi force until a bullet took his life. His heroic actions not only saved the men still fighting, but also allowed for evacuation of the wounded.

“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.” AP/AOL News

Smith’s wife, daughter and son attended the ceremony. His 11-year-old son, David, accepted the award from President Bush on his father’s behalf. Smith’s family understood and embraced his enthusiasm to serve his country. In a previous speech about her brother, Smith’s sister explained: “In the last letter that Paul Ray wrote to the parents from Iraq, he told them…now that he was a father himself, he realized just how much they had sacrificed to make his life a good life and he thanked them for that special effort. He spoke of being prepared to give—as he said—’all that I am, to ensure that all my boys make it home.'”

“We are here to pay tribute to a soldier whose service illustrates the highest ideals of leadership and love of our country,” Bush said in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House. Bush said Smith “gave his life for these ideals in a deadly battle outside Baghdad. It is my great privilege to recognize his great sacrifice by awarding Sgt. Smith the Medal of Honor.” — Fox/AP

Smith led a seemingly “normal” life and was living his stated dream: “I want to be a Soldier, get married, and have kids.” His record, however, tells the story of a true hero and patriot. Here is a list of Smith’s military commendations: Medal of Honor, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, South West Asia Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Kuwait Liberation Medal, Valorous Unit Award, Army Superior Unit Award, German Marksmanship Badge, and French Armed Forces Commando Badge

We stand in awe to recognize that such a hero once walked among us. Read a detailed account of Smith’s bravery here and the profile of his life here.

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