The Medal of Honor

From the Times of London (and no doubt everywhere across the pond):

Top honour for US soldier killed saving 100
From Roland Watson in Washington

SERGEANT Paul Smith single-handedly saved the lives of more than 100 Americans when he placed himself between them and advancing Iraqi troops as coalition forces pushed towards Baghdad.

“Feed me ammunition whenever you hear the gun get quiet,” he barked at one of his soldiers as he took over a .50-calibre machinegun on an armoured car and charged into the Iraqi lines. After a 90-minute battle he had killed up to 50 Iraqis and protected his soldiers and 100 others in an operations centre and first aid station at Baghdad airport, precipitating the fall of the Iraqi capital.

By then he was dead, felled by a bullet to the head. Yesterday his son David, 11, received the Medal of Honour from President Bush, the nation’s highest award for bravery.

Sergeant Smith’s “conspicuous gallantry, above and beyond the call of duty”, said his citation, elevated the Texan to the pantheon of US military heroes. More than 42 million Americans have served in wars since the Civil War, but only 3,459 have received the Medal of Honour, most posthumously.

Sergeant Smith is the first to be awarded the medal for action in Iraq and Afghanistan. His is the third to be awarded since Vietnam and the first for a decade. The medal is awarded only for acts of “such conspic- uous character to clearly distinguish the man for gallantry and intrepidity above his comrades — service that involved extreme jeopardy of life or the performance of extraordinary hazardous duty”.

General Douglas Mac-Arthur, the Second World War commander, said that he would sell his soul for a Medal of Honour. Harry Truman said that he would rather have received the medal than be President. General George Custer was so jealous of the two his brother, Thomas, received in the Civil War that the pair came to blows when Thomas wore them to a social event. Yet Sergeant Smith’s heroics went largely untold for two years.

Sergeant Smith, 33, and his 25-strong platoon ran into 100 Iraqis massing to attack the airport. Had he not blocked their advance, they would have overrun the US command and medical tents there, prolonging the battle of Baghdad for at least a day. He was the only American to die in the clash.
Good man. :D
That guy had some mighty big kahonnas. Well deserved.
Calypso said:
From the Times of London (and no doubt everywhere across the pond):
You would be surprised. It is not everywhere as you might think. Now, the Pope is EVERYWHERE, but the MOH winner is not. He has gotten some press but not nearly enough.
March 14, 2005

Hard as hell
Shot 7 times, this first sergeant shielded a wounded grunt from a grenade explosion

By Gidget Fuentes
Times staff writer

OCEANSIDE, Calif. — When two Marines helped a badly wounded fellow leatherneck from a house in Fallujah, it was a moment that could have been quickly forgotten amid the chaos of the November assault on the insurgent-held Iraq city.
Only the handful of Marines who were there would know that 1st Sgt. Brad Kasal was shot seven times after killing an insurgent at point-blank range.

Few would know that, despite his wounds, Kasal used his body to cover a fellow Marine from a grenade blast — one that peppered the first sergeant with 40 pieces of shrapnel. Or that he did it all to save three wounded Marines.

But Lucian Read, a World Picture News photographer, captured the moment the bloodied first sergeant made it out of the house.

In the photo, Kasal’s face is caught in a grimace of pain. His arms are hooked over the shoulders of two fellow Marines, his finger straight and off the trigger of the 9mm pistol in his right hand. His desert camouflage trousers are soaked with blood from crotch to boot tops.

It’s a powerful picture, one that has spurred intense curiosity, speculation and rumors in online journals and discussion groups; chief among the rumors as the photo is e-mailed from Marine to Marine is that Kasal has been nominated for the Medal of Honor for his actions. Kasal, 38, says the medal rumor isn’t true and downplays the attention.

But there’s no escaping the pull of that picture. It’s a gung-ho photo. And once you hear the story behind it, you know Kasal and his team are, too.

On high alert

It was Nov. 13 and Kasal’s unit, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, was among six Marine and Army infantry battalions gripped in house-to-house combat in the fifth day of the fight to regain control of the insurgent hotbed in Iraq’s Anbar province.

The deployment was Kasal’s second in Iraq and the 20-year veteran was serving as the top enlisted Marine for Weapons Company, 3/1. Over four days, the battalion moved south through a train station and the city’s Jolan District.

“We were encountering fighting and engagements with the enemy the whole way in there and out,” he said.

Enemy fire rained on them from rooftops.

“We were doing house-to-house and receiving fire every day,” he said, recalling the sight of abandoned homes and predominantly middle-aged men.

At the time, Kasal was traveling with a combined anti-armor team section supporting Kilo Company, 3/1, and his senses were on high alert. In his Humvee, Kasal kept his radio close to his ear, he recalled, “so I could listen for casualties.” That morning, Kasal and his vehicle crew were traveling with Kilo Company’s 3rd Platoon in an area of Fallujah south of Jolan, an area the Marines knew as “Queens.”

Around 10:30 a.m., he saw a bloodied sergeant walking down a street. “I could tell that he was wounded, so I ran out into the street and I grabbed him and pulled him between two buildings behind a wall to take some cover,” Kasal said.

“He told me that [he] and a few other Marines went into a building, about three houses up, and there were four bad guys. He described it like a shootout of the OK Corral.”

The sergeant made it out of the building, but three others were trapped inside. “So knowing that … I started grabbing a bunch of Marines to begin an assault on the building” 75 yards down the street.

Kasal hustled his team to the entrance of the two-story house and stepped inside.

Into the darkness

As they entered, the Marines found three dead Iraqis in the first room and doorways to three adjoining rooms.

In one, a Marine lay on the ground, wounded in the legs by gunfire. In another, an Iraqi man lay dead. The third room was almost completely dark.

Kasal directed several Marines to care for the wounded, clear adjoining rooms on the first floor and up to the second floor, then led Pfc. Alexander Nicoll toward the darkened room.

With Nicoll at his shoulder, he stepped through the doorway to clear the room, lit only by a tiny window at the far end.

But as he did, “that’s when I see an Iraqi man was inside. He had his AK pointed right at me. I saw him, and he saw me.

“As I backed up, he shot a burst right in front of me that hit the wall,” Kasal said. The first sergeant responded by raising his M16 barrel, sticking it against the man’s chest and pulling the trigger.

“I shot him about seven or eight times before he hit the ground. And before he hit the ground, I shot two more in his forehead just to make sure.”

Nicoll covered the doorway, and Kasal yelled for the other Marines to provide cover fire.

Then, “just out of the blue, from behind me and probably from upstairs … from behind, somebody opened up on fully automatic.

“All I remember is rounds hit all around me, hit my leg. I felt round after round just hit my leg. It felt like somebody was hitting me in the leg with a hammer.”

He fell. “I heard Nicoll scream behind me, so I could tell he was hit,” Kasal said. “The back part of my leg came out in front, and then it collapsed me because my leg was shattered. I fell onto the ground.

“He was still shooting, so I used my arm and I crawled on my stomach to try to get out of the doorway and get around that corner and try to get out of the line of fire.”

Nicoll had fallen into the doorway and was still taking fire, so Kasal crawled back toward the doorway to reach him.

“That’s when I got shot in the butt.”

As he pulled the wounded Nicoll out of the line of fire, two fears filled his head: that Nicoll could die and that they could take friendly fire from the Marines trying to clear the house.

Kasal’s radio was in the vehicle, so he improvised. He placed his M16 near the doorway to mark their location. Then, he applied a compression bandage to Nicoll’s leg to staunch the bleeding. Seeing blood under the Marine’s flak vest, he tried to remove the body armor and kept yelling at Nicoll to keep him conscious and awake.

But the fighting wasn’t done.

A telltale ‘thud’

“I heard a noise to the back of me,” Kasal recalled. The telltale “thud” told him one thing:


Rolling over to his right side, “I saw a hand grenade — a pineapple grenade — right inside the doorway … about four feet away, just far enough out of arm’s reach.

“I pushed Nicoll’s down leg off me … I rolled over on top of him and kind of bear-hugged him to try to cover him up with my arms and body.”

The grenade detonated, blasting metal across the room, cutting into the walls and into the Marines’ bodies. Kasal was hit by as many as 40 pieces.

“It was more like real severe stinging or mosquito bites,” he said. “The biggest thing is it rang my bell pretty good.”

Kasal was still stunned as then-Cpl. Robert Mitchell ran into the room and an insurgent opened fire from the second floor. The bleeding staff NCO told Mitchell, “Don’t worry about me; take care of Nicoll.”

Kasal pulled his 9mm pistol to provide cover fire for the doorway so insurgents “couldn’t come in and spray us.”

With Nicoll “bleeding to death,” Kasal and Mitchell yelled through the little window for help. Marines with Kilo Company’s 2nd and 3rd platoons fought their way into the building to pull out Nicoll and Kasal.

The first sergeant kept a tight grip on his pistol as two Marines helped him up off the floor and out of the building. “I was prepared to shoot my way out, if I had to.”


That Kasal had the instinct to risk his own life to save fellow Marines doesn’t surprise those who know him. Kasal, they know well, is a grunt through and through.

The military has been in his blood all along. His brothers joined the Army, but he wanted to be a Marine. When he turned 17, Kasal enlisted and headed to boot camp. His latest tour in Iraq was his tenth deployment, including the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

While lying in a stretcher at 3/1’s battalion aid station, he saw his commander, Lt. Col. Willy Buhl. Days earlier, the CO had told him to “stay out of trouble.”

At the aid station, “he asked me what happened, and I said I found a little trouble.”

By the time he reached the surgical unit, Kasal had lost much blood but remained alert and awake. He had been shot seven times, shattering the bones in his right leg. Nicoll, now a lance corporal, had his right leg amputated; the gunfire had severed an artery.

Kasal spent 66 days at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., enduring 16 surgeries, worrying about his men and wondering what lay ahead for him.

He cut short his stay because he knew 3/1 was heading back home to Camp Pendleton, Calif. He wanted to be there when they arrived and welcome them back. He wanted them to know that he was OK. But more, he missed them. “I was missing the Marines, the brotherhood,” he said.

Ten days after his last surgery, Kasal left for California, arriving just in time for the homecoming.

These days, Kasal is on convalescent leave coping with sharp and constant pain.

He stretches and moves during physical therapy, and he can walk on crutches or move using a wheelchair.

The shrapnel remains, although some pieces have shifted to the surface as his body rejects the metal.

The worst is the metal contraption that surrounds his right leg, a device he calls the “Medieval Torture Machine.”

Enemy fire destroyed four inches of his leg bones.

Now, 22 screws are drilled into the remaining bone and the machine is designed to help lengthen and stretch the leg.

Such devices — known as “fixators” — are attached to the two halves of the bone to be lengthened, applying pressure to keep the bone from setting too soon.

Kasal turns a knob one click at a time, which lengthens the machine — and his leg — by a tenth of an inch. It’s a source of excruciating pain.

The 16 surgeries he’s had won’t be all. Doctors won’t know what’s next until they remove the device and evaluate how his leg has healed.

“Oh, I’ll have a career,” Kasal said with confidence. “I’ll get back to health and have a career.”

He is grateful for his life and considers himself lucky and blessed. “If anything, I love the Marine Corps more,” he said.

The experience has strengthened his belief in the war as “a just cause.”

The enormous support from family, friends, comrades in his unit and countless other well wishers has buoyed him.

“I’ll will myself back to health,” he vows.As for the photo, he’d almost rather just dismiss it.

“My troops call me a tough B-A-S-T-A-R-D,” he acknowledged. “But again, it’s just survival.”

Kasal says he’s no hero.

“I did what anyone would do in a survival situation and for any fellow Marine,” he said. “If I was in Nicoll’s shoes, Nicoll would do the same thing to protect me. I have no doubt in my mind.

“It’s a survival situation; you do it or you die,” he added.

“As far as protecting another Marine, that’s what Marines do. There’s nothing heroic about that.”

Gidget Fuentes is the San Diego bureau chief for Marine Corps Times. She can be reached at (760) 677-6145 or

I believe this Marine was also put in for a MOH.
Here is a photo of the Marine:


SgtUSMC8541 said:
Calypso said:
From the Times of London (and no doubt everywhere across the pond):
You would be surprised. It is not everywhere as you might think. Now, the Pope is EVERYWHERE, but the MOH winner is not. He has gotten some press but not nearly enough.
Sadly, that's true.

It's just not "PC" for such to be celebrated by certain (mostly liberal democrat) circles. To do so would offend them..

In Salem Oregon, a girl wanted to post a picture of her brother at school. He is in Iraq, and the picture shows him with a few other Marines, at least two of them are holding their rifles of MG. She was denied posting it as the school district has a "no tolerance" policy for "guns"

That said

Well done and well deservered SERGEANT Paul Smith !
It's very humbling when you hear stories of brave soldiers laying down their lives in order to save others. We, as you know, have a soldier who has won the first VC in 23 years but yet the country seems to be more hung up on a fight between 2 football players, who are far too over payed to do what they do, than a son of England (well Grenada actually) who risked his life to save the lives of members of his Platoon who gets paid a pitance for what he endured, there is no justice in this world.

RIP Sgt Smith and Sgt Kasal if you ever read this well done, you, Pte Beharry VC and the rest are an example of what every Infantry soldier should aspire to be. I hope you do fully recover and have a successful career

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