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Tampa MEPS honors fallen hero

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Tania Reid
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Members at the Tampa Military Entrance Processing station renamed and dedicated their center to a fallen hero during a memorial ceremony April 11. 

Sergeant First Class Paul Smith, 11th Engineer Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division combat engineer with Bravo Company and Tampa native was killed April 4, 2003 in Baghdad, Iraq. He became the 14th combat engineer to receive the Medal of Honor posthumously. 

According to various publications Sergeant Smith was leading about three dozen men who were using a courtyard next to a watchtower to build a temporary prisoner of war holding. As they were cleaning the courtyard, they were surprised by about a hundred of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard. 

With complete disregard for his own life and under constant enemy fire, he rallied his men and led a counterattack. Seeing that his wounded men were in danger of being overrun, and that enemy fire from the watchtower had pinned them down, he manned a 50-caliber machine gun atop a damaged armor vehicle. From a completely exposed position, he killed as many as 50 enemy soldiers as he protected his men. 

Sergeant Smith's leadership saved the men in the courtyard, and he prevented an enemy attack on the aid station just up the road. Sergeant Smith continued to fire and took a -- until he took a fatal round to the head. His actions in that courtyard saved the lives of more than 100 American soldiers. 

Those gathered at the service remembered Sergeant Smith for his humility as a leader. Lt. Col. Ronald Ray also a Medal of Honor recipient reflected on the words of the former team leader. 

"There are two ways to come home, stepping off the plane and being carried off the plane... it doesn't matter how I come home, because I am prepared to give all that I am to ensure that all my boys make it home," were the words of Sergeant Smith. 

Two plaques were unveiled after the ceremony with an image of Sergeant Smith at the entrance of the MEPS and the inside of the building.