The New York Times reports that Sgt. First Class Paul R. Smith, who I posted about here, has been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, America's highest military award, for his heroic actions in Iraq.
SFC Smith manned a machine gun in a position that exposed him to enemy fire, and so defended his fellow soldiers against a far larger Iraqi force until support could arrive. His actions allowed wounded U.S. troops to be evacuated and may have saved as many as 100 American lives.
He is the first of our troops in Iraq or Afghanistan to be so honored. Sadly, it is a posthumous award. After firing, reloading, and firing again and again, killing dozens of the enemy, Smith took an Iraqi bullet in the neck. His luck ran out, but his bravery never did.
In separate news, Fred Korematsu has passed away. Fred was a Japanese-American ordered into a U.S. internment camp during World War II. Despite his friends' pleas not to "make trouble", he refused to go, and was arrested and convicted.
The Supreme Court upheld his conviction in what legal scholars rank along with Plessy v. Ferguson as one of the Court's most infamous decisions. It was not until 1983 that the conviction was overturned.
In 1998, over half a century after he took his principled stand, Fred Korematsu received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civillian award.
SFC Paul R. Smith and Fred Korematsu may be gone, but their families can take pride, and, I hope, solace in the fact that each man, in his own way, exemplified the best of America.
This post has been revised to properly indicate SFC Smith's rank as Sergeant First Class, not Sergeant.