Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith of Tampa left his wife and two children to go to the war in Iraq. At 33, he came to think of the soldiers he led as his "boys." Many were younger than him by a decade or more.
Smith wrote to his family that he was prepared to give everything he had to make sure "all my boys make it home." In a battle near the airport in Baghdad two years ago, he kept that promise. But in doing so he died, the only member of his platoon lost that day, April 4, 2003.
At a White House ceremony Monday, exactly two years after his death, Smith's family will receive his Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for battlefield valor. It's a rare honor.
More than 1 million U.S. men and women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, but Smith is the first to receive the Medal of Honor. It will be the first such medal issued in 12 years, when two soldiers were given it posthumously for actions in Somalia in 1993. Their battle was recounted in the book and film Black Hawk Down.
More than 42 million Americans have served in U.S. wars, but only 3,459 Medals of Honor have been awarded since the Civil War.