Magazine article Soldiers Magazine

SGT. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith: Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Received the Medal of Honor Posthumously during a White House Ceremony, April 4, 2005

Magazine article Soldiers Magazine

SGT. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith: Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith Received the Medal of Honor Posthumously during a White House Ceremony, April 4, 2005

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

PAUL Ray Smith was born on Sept. 24, 1969, in El Paso, Texas. At the age of nine, his family moved to South Tampa, Fla., where he attended public schools. He enjoyed sports, liked cats, skateboarding, riding bicycles, and playing pranks with friends and his younger sister, Lisa. He particularly enjoyed football, which instilled the importance of being part of a team and motivated the growth of his natural leadership abilities.

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He developed an interest in carpentry while in high school and was employed part time as a carpenter assistant. Paul Ray had an interest in old cars--he enjoyed taking things apart to see how they worked. He restored a dune buggy with a friend. He liked to collect things from the sea, rocks in general and marbles. His family remembered that as far back as they could recall, when anyone would ask what he wanted to do as an adult, he always said, "I want to be a Soldier, get married and have kids."

Upon graduating in 1988 from Tampa Bay Vocational Technical High School, he joined the Army and attended Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. As his mother wrote in his biography for a dedication ceremony in Orlando: "He had begun living his dream ... he was assigned to Germany, met and married his wife, Birgit, had two children, and was doing what he was born to do ... lead American Soldiers...."

Smith joined the 11th Engineer Battalion in 1999, and immediately be came an integral part of Bravo Company. When he deployed with his platoon to Kosovo in May 2001, as part of the KFOR 3A rotation, Smith was responsible for daily presence patrols in the highly populated town of Gnjilane. In the spring of 2002, he was promoted to sergeant first class and completed the Advanced Non-Commissioned Officer Course in August 2002.

In January 2003, Smith returned from leave to prepare his men for rapid deployment to Kuwait as part of the 3rd Infantry Division's buildup for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Smith took a strict approach to training his men, ensuring that his platoon was proficient in handling weapons and prepared for urban combat.

Bravo Company crossed the border on March 19, and traveled more than 300 kilometers in the first 48 hours of the war as part of the lead company in support of Task Force 2-7 Infantry. Passing through the Karbala Gap, Smith and his men pushed through the night of April 3, 2003, toward Baghdad Airport where Bravo Company, 11th Engineer Battalion of Task Force 2-7 were involved in a firelight with Iraqi forces.

Smith's personal character is best described through some anecdotes his sister related in a speech about her brother:

"Paul Ray had an incredible love for the troops under his command. One Christmas, the wife of a Soldier in Paul Rays platoon had just had surgery and the Soldier and his wife were unable to provide a Christmas for their family. So, Paul Ray collected food from the company Christmas party, and he and Birgit bought presents for the children, and they took them to the Soldier's home. …

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