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Why do they call it that? Paul R. Smith Middle School: Two schools honor one hero

8:49 AM, May 16, 2013   |    comments
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All month long, it's a Military May for our "Why do they call it that?" series.

This week, we look at the special way Tampa Bay remembers a local hero -- the first American to receive the Medal of Honor during the Iraq War.

Why do they call it Paul R. Smith Middle School?

What's the right way to honor a man whose last act was so heroic he was given his nation's highest recognition, the Medal of Honor?

You certainly name a school after him.

But what's the right way to honor that man if he grew up in one city, but his family later settled in another?

You name two schools after him.

On each side of the Hillsborough-Pasco County line, you will find a Paul R. Smith Middle School.

But when you hear what Sgt. First Class Paul Ray Smith did ten years ago in Iraq, two schools may not seem like nearly enough.

Near Baghdad, around a hundred Iraqis descended on his small engineering team in a courtyard.

Smith stepped forward to fight them off.

He jumped up to man a .50 caliber machine gun.

Smith went through box after box of ammunition turning back the enemy.

He saved his squad, and other troops nearby.

But he lost his life. An Iraqi bullet brought him down.

"He sacrificed and his family sacrificed. And sometimes we can be selfish," said JoAnn Johnson, principal of the Smith Middle School in Hillsborough.

"Whenever the students can see that giving of yourself to others -- [it] shows them that sometimes it makes you feel good."

The Hillsborough school named for Smith is in the Citrus Park area of Tampa. He grew up in South Tampa's Palma Ceia neighborhood.

The Smith Middle School in Pasco is located in Holiday.

Here, a large picture of Smith hangs in the gym. His image looks out at students playing, wearing the school's team name, the Eagles.

In the school's office, pieces of the very building in Iraq where Smith saved so many lives hang for every student to see.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

We feature new "Why do they call it that?" stories each Thursday on 10 News at 6 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Check out previous editions of the Emmy Award-winning series at our "Why do they call it that?" website:

Follow 10 News reporter Grayson Kamm on Twitter at @graysonkamm as he travels Tampa Bay telling your stories.





















Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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