Monday, May 29, 2006

One Son Comes Home, One Son Earns Medal of Honor

This is an expanded story of Sgt Paul R. Smith, Medal of Honor Recipient:

Janice Pvirre will be at Arlington in person. She will join the other "Gold Star Mothers," those who have lost children in combat, to lay a wreath and to say a prayer at a white marker engraved with the emblem of this nation's highest military honor.

Her son, Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith, died in a dusty courtyard outside Baghdad, fatally wounded in a furious firefight while showing "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity ... above and beyond the call of duty" _ a sacrifice that made him the only service member awarded the Medal of Honor in the Iraq war.

Among those Sgt. Smith's actions saved: Dan Richardson, who has recently married and himself been promoted to sergeant.

That knowledge is both a blessing and a burden, for one mother to know that any milestone she will celebrate with her son _ a birthday, a holiday, the birth of a child _ was made possible by another mother's loss.

"We have been drawn together for some reason, and we're both intrigued about that reason," Richardson [Dan's Mother] says. "There is a destiny behind all of this. And it's not over. It's not played out yet. We don't know where it's going from here."[snip]

Smith, who had married shortly after that war in 1992 and had become a stepfather, then a father, told his wife that he feared he hadn't seen the last of Iraq. Making sure his men were ready became a priority, Birgit Smith says.

"He said, `We are not done. We're going back. We didn't finish,'" the young widow says. "It was just a matter of time."

That time came in March 2003. And Smith was ready.

"There are two ways to come home, stepping off the plane and being carried off the plane," he wrote in a letter to his parents. "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."

One of those "boys" was Dan Richardson.[snip]

Go over and read more about the fight, Sgt Smith's heroism and how the men he fought with and for honor him.

In the four-page letter from Dan afterward, Rita Richardson learned the harrowing tale of gunfire and confusion, and of the sergeant who held them all together.

"It is because of him that I'm not dead ..." her son wrote. "He gave his life defending us."[snip]

Letters and e-mails from the families of others who served with Smith still come to his mother and widow, thanking them for his sacrifice.

Some display his picture in a place of honor among their own family photos. Somewhere, there is a baby boy named Paul, in his memory.

Medic Michelle Chavez held Smith's hand as he died under the hot Iraqi sun. In her pocket, she carries a .50-caliber machine gun bullet from the battle.

Because of Smith, she is alive to pursue her dream of becoming a physician's assistant, says her mother, Pam Shorb.

"I really don't know how to put it into words," says Shorb. "I'll always be grateful to him for what he did and what he sacrificed. Without our daughter, we don't know what we'd be."

Janice Pvirre says it hurts to know that because of those same actions, Paul was not there last October to give stepdaughter Jessica away in marriage. When 12-year-old David enters seventh grade this fall, it will be in a middle school building named for a father who is no longer there.

If anyone owes her anything, she says, it is to live as good a life as possible, so that Paul's death was not in vain.

Sgt Paul R. Smith

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