Paul Smith was born on September 24, 1969 in El Paso, Texas. His parents, Donald and Janice Smith moved the family to Tampa Bay, Florida when Paul was nine years old. He had three siblings--Lisa, Cristina and Anthony. Long before he was a combat engineer, Paul Smith was interested in building things. He attended Tampa Bay Vocational Technical High School and graduated in 1988. He enlisted in the Army in October of 1989 and had a long and honorable career. By the time he and his men deployed to Iraq in 2003, Paul Smith was Sergeant First Class Paul Smith.
On April 4, 2003, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith and his men were charged with building a temporary P.O.W. holding area near the Baghdad International Airport. They soon came under attack by an enemy force of an estimated 100 men. Sgt. 1st Class Smith effectively delivered orders to his men while fighting off the enemy with his rifle, grenades and an AT4. During the attack, one of the U.S. Forces armored personnel carriers was damaged by enemy fire and the three men in it were wounded.
Seeing that these men needed to be evacuated and that the armored personnel carrier’s .50 caliber rifle was the largest weapon between his men and the enemy, Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith did what no commanding officer would have ever rightly ordered him to do. He climbed into the exposed turret hatch of the vehicle and manned the weapon with the entire upper half of his body exposed to the enemy. He managed to shoot and kill between 20 and 50 enemy soldiers before being shot and killed himself. Because of his gallantry, his men went on to defeat the enemy that day.
On April 4, 2005, exactly two years after his death in Baghdad, Sgt. First Class Paul Smith was awarded the Medal of Honor “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed enemy near Baghdad International Airport.” His eleven-year-old son, David was at the White House to receive his father’s medal.
Sergeant First Class Paul Smith is survived by his wife Birgit, his son, David and his daughter, Jessica. He was cremated and his ashes were spread out in Tampa, save a small amount that his wife keeps in a locket.
Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith, retrieved 8/31/09, army.mil/medalofhonor/smith/profile/index.html
Medal of Honor Recipients, Iraq, retrieved 8/31/09, history.army.mil/html/moh/iraq.html