MoH Monday: Sgt. First Class Paul Ray Smith

Jessica Evans
Updated onMay 9, 2023
3 minute read
Paul Ray Smith medal of honor


In 2003, Sgt. First Class Paul Ray Smith served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and was awarded the prestigious Medal of Honor for his heroic actions. Background Born on September 24,…

In 2003, Sgt. First Class Paul Ray Smith served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and was awarded the prestigious Medal of Honor for his heroic actions.


Born on September 24, 1969, in El Paso, Texas, Smith spent most of his childhood in Tampa, Florida. He had a keen interest in construction and worked as a carpenter's assistant in high school. After graduating in 1989, he enlisted in the Army and trained at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. Smith served in the Gulf War and deployed several times for Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia and Operation Joint Guardian in Kosovo.

In 2002, he promoted to Sergeant First Class. The, he joined B Company, 11th Engineer Battalion of the 3rd Infantry. A year later, in 2003, Smith deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom. It was on April 4, 2003, while manning a machine-gun position at the Baghdad International Airport that his unit sustained an attack.

Medal of Honor Action  

On April 4, 2003, Smith found himself in a fierce battle while helping transport members of the 7th Infantry across the Euphrates River toward Saddam International Airport in Baghdad. Suddenly, a small army of enemy combatants ambushed the convoy. Rocket-propelled grenades exploded, and gunfire erupted all around them.

In the midst of the chaos, Smith quickly sprang into action. He took charge, rallying his fellow soldiers to defend themselves against the attack. Smith ran straight into the line of fire, throwing grenades and firing his weapon, forcing the enemy fighters to retreat.

As the battle raged on, a rocket-propelled grenade hit one of the vehicles in Smith's convoy, injuring three of his fellow servicemembers. Despite the danger, Smith raced to the vehicle to assist in evacuating the wounded.

But the danger was far from over. Smith then noticed a group of enemy snipers advancing on his team. With no time to waste, he surveyed the area and spotted a machine gun mounted on a damaged military vehicle. Without hesitation, Smith raced through the open terrain, dodging enemy fire until he reached the machine gun.

Smith used the machine gun to fire on the enemy combatants, causing them to retreat again. His bravery saved countless American lives. During the engagement, enemy fire hit Smith, causing fatal injuries. He sustained being shot at least 13 times.

President George W. Bush presents the Medal of Honor to David Smith, 11, April 4, 2005, at the White House.

Award Ceremony

On April 4, 2005, President George W. Bush presented Smith's son David with his posthumous Medal of Honor during a special ceremony at the White House. On that day, David was accompanied by his mother and sister and his late father's fellow service members. The solemn ceremony began with the playing of the national anthem and an opening prayer. Then, President Bush delivered a heartfelt speech that paid tribute to Sergeant First Class Smith's bravery, sacrifice, and dedication to duty.

Bush recounted the events that led to Smith's heroic death, detailing the intense combat that had taken place on that fateful day.He recounted how Smith had taken charge of his team and successfully repelled wave after wave of enemy attacks, even though they were vastly outnumbered and outgunned.The president also spoke of Smith's unwavering commitment to his fellow servicemembers, noting how he had risked his own life to save the lives of others.

After the president's speech, he presented the Medal of Honor to David, the son of Sergeant First Class Smith. David accepted the award on behalf of his father and his family, tears streaming down his face. The president then embraced David, offering words of comfort and gratitude to the young man who had lost his father to the War on Terror.

As the ceremony came to a close, the room fell silent as taps played in honor of Sergeant First Class Smith. His family, his fellow service members, and President Bush stood in solemn silence, paying their final respects to a fallen hero.