Apr 2, 2008
Remembering Our Heroes; by LtGen William Caldwell
This Friday (4 April 2008) will mark the fifth year anniversary of the incredible sacrifice of SFC Paul Ray Smith, our first Congressional Medal of Honor awardee in the War on Terror, and the only one awarded to a Soldier in our Army.
On 4 April 2003, elements of the 3rd Infantry Division were fighting near Baghdad International Airport. That battle might have simply been remembered as one more stop on the journey if not for the actions of one, SFC Paul Ray Smith. For on that day, SFC Smith placed the needs and welfare of his Soldiers and his country above his own.
SFC Smith's unit was violently attacked by a company-sized enemy force. Realizing the vulnerability of more than 100 fellow soldiers, SFC Smith quickly organized a hasty defense. He braved hostile enemy fire to personally engage the enemy with hand grenades and anti-tank weapons and organized the evacuation of three wounded soldiers from an APC struck by a rocket propelled grenade and a 60mm mortar round.
Fearing the enemy would overrun their defenses, SFC Smith moved under withering enemy fire to man a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on a damaged armored personnel
carrier. He singlehandedly manned the gun from an exposed position with total disregard for his own life. During this action, he was mortally wounded. His courageous actions helped defeat the enemy attack, and resulted in as many as 50 enemy soldiers killed, while allowing the safe withdrawal of numerous wounded soldiers.
For his actions that day, SFC Smith became the first person to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor in the War on Terror. Currently only two other individuals have received our Nation's highest military award in more than six years of war; CPL Jason Dunham, USMC and USN Seal LT Michael Murphy. A fourth has been approved for Navy Seal Mickey Monsoor and will be presented shortly. Since it's creation in 1861 only 3463 have received the award. SFC Smith serves as an example of all of our heroes and the Families who selflessly support them. For more than 233 years Soldiers have made the commitment to leave family and the safety and comforts of home to protect our nation and preserve liberty. They have answered the call "This We'll Defend."
On the anniversary of SFC Smith's incredible sacrifice, let's take a moment to remember all of our heroes.
WILLIAM B. CALDWELL, IV
Lieutenant General, USA