GI Awarded Rare Medal of Honor in Iraq

In the early days of the Iraq war, on the last day of his life, Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith showed valor that no U.S. soldier has matched in Iraq.

Smith's men came under attack as they mopped up after the capture of Baghdad's airport. The sergeant braved hostile fire to evacuate three wounded soldiers and single-handedly killed dozens of enemy soldiers before being killed himself as he covered the evacuation of other wounded Americans.

Smith posthumously became the first soldier in the Iraq war awarded the Medal of Honor, America's highest military award, given in recognition of extreme valor in combat. More than three years later, Smith remains the only service member to receive the honor for action in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

That the U.S. military's top honor has become so rare is a sign of how warfare has changed.

Instead, the attacks are often fast and deadly, like the blast of a roadside bomb.

Smith's was an exception.

It was April 4, 2003. A company of Iraqi Republican Guards attacked Smith and other soldiers as they built holding areas for prisoners of war.

Smith's medal citation said he organized a two-platoon defensive wall, braved hostile fire to attack with hand grenades and anti-tank weapons and evacuated three wounded soldiers from their disabled armored personnel carrier. Still under fire, he mounted a damaged armored personnel carrier and fired its .50 caliber machine gun into the Iraqi ranks.

In helping defeat the Iraqi attack, Smith killed as many as 50 Iraqis and allowed the extraction of numerous wounded soldiers before being killed himself, the citation said.

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