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Fallen Soldier to Be Awarded Medal of Honor

On Monday at the White House, Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award. On April 4, 2002, at the Baghdad airport, Smith's platoon came under fierce assault by Iraqi forces and was at risk of being over-run.

The 33-year-old combat engineer from Tampa, Fla., evacuated wounded soldiers, organized a defense and took control of a machine gun to fend off the attack. Mortally wounded in the firefight, Smith is credited with saving dozens of American lives.

Smith is the 51st soldier from the U.S. Army's Third Infantry Division to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Past recipients from the Third I.D. include Lt. Audie L. Murphy, who is often referred to as "the most decorated combat soldier of World War II."

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Eric Westervelt is a San Francisco-based correspondent for NPR's National Desk. He has reported on major events for the network from wars and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa to historic wildfires and terrorist attacks in the U.S.