First Medal of Honor awarded in 10 years

March 30, 2005 at 6:19 PM

WASHINGTON, March 30 (UPI) -- An Army soldier killed during the battle for the Baghdad airport two years ago will receive the first Medal of Honor awarded since 1993, the Army said Wednesday.

Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith, of Tampa, Fl., was killed while nearly single-handedly blunting an Iraqi military ambush April 4, 2003, at the airport.

The Medal of Honor is the highest honor a service member can earn in the military. It will be awarded posthumously to Smith at the White House during an April 4 ceremony.

It will be only the third Medal of Honor to be awarded since the Vietnam war.

After breaching a wall into the airport compound, Smith's company and medical station came under attack by about 100 enemy fighters.

He began the counterattack by throwing a hand grenade, and fired anti-tank weapons and his personal rifle. Smith was killed while firing three boxes of ammunition from a commandeered .50 caliber machine gun from the top of a debilitated armored personnel carrier.

"Sgt. 1st Class Smith's actions to lead soldiers in direct contact with a numerically superior enemy ... demonstrates conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty," the Army said in a Wednesday news release.

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