Numerous buildings on military bases are named in honor of heroes, particularly Medal of Honor recipients. Fort Stewart’s education center is one of them.
The center is named in honor of Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith, who gave his life on April 4, 2003, while protecting his soldiers so they could remove numerous wounded comrades out the line of enemy fire. Two years after he gave his life in Iraq, Smith was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush.
Friday morning — the 10th anniversary of his sacrifice — Smith was honored again when a bust of him was unveiled in the foyer of the center.
Maj. Gen. Mike Murray, 3rd Infantry Division and Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield commander, welcomed Smith’s sister, Lisa DeVane, and his son, David, as well as sculptor, Bruce Everly. Murray reminded David, who was 11 in 2003, that his father was an American hero and one of more than 50 3rd ID Medal of Honor recipients.
Murray told family members and nearly 100 people at the ceremony that soldiers like Smith don’t make the ultimate sacrifice foolishly or because they have more courage than other guys. They do it to protect fellow soldiers, he said.
He said Smith was a leader who ensured his troops were educated and trained to do their jobs. It was fitting, the general said, that the installation’s education center was named in his honor.
According to information provided, Smith was part of Task Force 2-7 Infantry. His combat engineers with B Company, 11th Engineer Battalion were building a prisoner of war holding area near the Baghdad International Airport when they got in a fire-fight with a company-sized enemy force. He organized a defense of two platoons with one Bradley Fighting Vehicle and three armored personnel carriers.
After firing small weapons, grenades and anti-tank weapons, Smith then organized a rescue of wounded soldiers from a disabled APC that had been hit with a rocket-propelled grenade and mortar round. He manned the .50 caliber machinegun on the disabled APC, an exposed position. Before he was mortally wounded, Smith’s actions and those of his men killed more than 50 enemy soldiers.
“To this day, there are people still learning (about) and reading his (award) citation, and getting to know about what he did,” DeVane said of her brother. “I have no doubt this sculpture will be here for decades to come.”
DeVane contacted Everly about sculpting the bust. Everly, who sculpts and teaches in Buford, has completed numerous portrait busts of historic characters, including presidents and generals.
“I was doing an art show in Atlanta, and Lisa approached me and asked me if I would do a bust for her,” Everly said. “I told her how much I charged for it, and she said, ‘Well, it’s for my brother. He was a Medal of Honor recipient,’ and I told her I’ll do it for nothing.”
Everly joked that it took him more than 30 years to do the bust because that’s how long he’s studied and practiced sculpting.
Smith’s son stood back as his aunt and Everly talked with news media. He seemed humbled by the attention. Humility is something he said he remembers about his father.
“As humbling as this (bust) is and as nice as this ceremony is, he wouldn’t want it to be about him,” he said. “I know he’d want it to be about his soldiers... He wasn’t the only soldier out there... It’s been a really long time now, and I’m happy that people don’t forget the story. A story like this really inspires other people.”