May 31, 2004
Sgt. Smith's 'Final Resistance'
During the battle at Baghdad airport on April 4, 2003, the only thing that stood between 100 Fadayeen Saddam fighters and 200 American soldiers was 33-year-old Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith. Writing in VFW magazine, Janie Blankenship tells Sgt. Smith's story:
On April 4, 2003, during the battle for Baghdad International Airport, Smith was in the gunner's hatch of an armored personnel carrier. He also was the target for bullets coming from an Iraqi Fedayeen unit of nearly 100 fighters. Having served in the Gulf War of 1991, Smith was no stranger to combat.
He protected some 200 U.S. soldiers behind him. Pfc. Jonathan Seaman was crouched inside the driver's hatch handing boxes of ammunition up to Smith. After handing off the fourth box of ammo, Seaman said the shooting stopped and Smith's body collapsed lifelessly into the tank. He had been shot through the neck and ultimately, had taken one for the team.
A member of 2nd Plt., B Co., 11th Engineers, 3rd Inf. Div., Smith was 33 when he was killed. The division has nominated him for the Medal of Honor. At press time, the final decision was pending with the Department of the Army.
According to the draft of the citation, Smith's actions killed 20-50 Iraqis, allowed the wounded to be evacuated and saved possibly 100 lives.
"His was the final resistance," Lt. Col. Thomas P. Smith, commander of the 11th Engineer Battalion, told the New York Times. "After that the enemy was unable to attack again."
Smith left a wife, Birgit, and two children. The day he was killed Birgit wrote him a brief letter and had mailed it just hours before the uniformed men came to deliver the devastating news.
"Not in a million years did I dream he wouldn't come home," Birgit told the Savannah Morning News. "Not my perfect soldier."
To many, including those in his platoon, Smith was nearly perfect. He provided his men with harsh advice about war based on his previous combat experience. "I knew he was a guy who wouldn't let us down," said Pfc. Gary Evans.
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