The nominee then must have their story wind through a dozen levels of military and presidential reviews, during which various factors are taken into account to ensure that only the greatest among the many noble sacrifices are selected for the final honors.
Some of it's recipients have gone on to fame, or earned it by their honored actions, including President Teddy Roosevelt, Audie Murphy in World War II, and even 'Buffalo Bill' Hickock.
It's recipients have been called 'unsung soldiers who acted valiantly in a moment of extraordinary pressure'.
Following the 9/11 attacks in 2001, over a million military men and women have served in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the first from this 'War on Terror' to be so honored was Sergeant Paul Smith.
He grew up in Tampa, Florida, enlisted in the Army in 1989, and served in the first Gulf War in 1991. He didn't join up at first out of patriotism, that developed later. At first he wanted just a good-paying job right out of high school, and saw this as his best shot. A career soldier, Smith was serving in Bosnia when the United States was attacked in 2001.
In April of 2003 he had moved on to Iraq, and was serving there as a combat engineer as his unit moved from Kuwait towards Baghdad, seizing a part of the Baghdad Airport on April 3rd, 2003.
The following morning, Paul was part of a team that was constructing a holding cell that would house prisoners of war, when the company came under attack by at least 100 Iraqi soldiers of Saddam Hussein's Special Republican Guard.
Paul took charge of their defense and response, calling in for support and hurling a grenade at the Iraqi postions while coming under heavy enemy fire. Iraqi mortar hit an M-113 engineering vehicle, injuring all three occupants, and Paul rushed in to help them to the safety of a nearby medical unit, which was itself now becoming endangered by the growing Iraqi attacks.
He could have retreated at that point, saving his life, but that would have meant the Iraqis advancing, and likely dozens of deaths on the American side. Instead, he grabbed control of the .50 caliber guns from the M-113 and fired back at the Iraqis, reloaded, and fired again, then reloaded and fired a third time.
As he got off this third round, pinning the Iraqis down, he was struck in the neck by their return fire and was killed. He had killed two to four dozen Iraqi troops, allowed wounded Americans to be evacuated, and saved the aid station and likely all those working, securing, and being treated there.
Smith was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously, with President Bush presenting to his widow, Brigit Smith, who later said the following:
"I'm proud and honored that Paul would be recognized by his country in such a meaningful way. He loved his country; he loved the Army; and he loved his soldiers."That about sums up all you need to know about this Real American Hero, Army Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith, who is the first of many who will be highlighted here at my website as we move forward.
Far above sporting and entertainment celebrities whom the media would have you believe are heroic and more worthy of your attention, these folks lay their lives, and the security of their families, on the line every day to ensure the security of the United States of America.
(NOTE: you will be able to view all the Real American Hero stories by clicking into that below label)