Columbia College–Fort Stewart director visits with parents of Paul R. Smith, Medal of Honor recipient and the Army Education Center’s namesake

Columbia College–Fort Stewart Director Richard Conroy with Janice and Don Pvirre
Columbia College–Fort Stewart Director Richard Conroy visited with Janice and Don Pvirre, mother and stepfather of the Army Education Center’s namesake, U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith, who died defending his country on April 4, 2003, in Baghdad, Iraq, at age 33. Columbia College–Fort Stewart is housed in this facility. The Pvirres toured the center, a 72,000-square-foot building that was completed in 2004. It was dedicated in November 2006.
Smith was born in El Paso, Texas, and enlisted in the Army in October 1989. After basic and advanced training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., he was deployed in defense of his country in the Persian Gulf War, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. On April 4, 2005, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush. At the time of his death, he was assigned to B Company, 11th Engineer Battalion of the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Ga. 
His official citation reads, “The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, April 4, 2005, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith United States Army for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty: 

Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed enemy near Baghdad International Airport, Baghdad, Iraq on 4 April 2003. On that day, Sergeant First Class Smith was engaged in the construction of a prisoner of war holding area when his Task Force was violently attacked by a company-sized enemy force. Realizing the vulnerability of over 100 fellow soldiers, Sergeant First Class Smith quickly organized a hasty defense consisting of two platoons of soldiers, one Bradley Fighting Vehicle and three armored personnel carriers. As the fight developed, Sergeant First Class Smith braved hostile enemy fire to personally engage the enemy with hand grenades and anti-tank weapons, and organized the evacuation of three wounded soldiers from an armored personnel carrier struck by a rocket propelled grenade and a 60mm mortar round. Fearing the enemy would overrun their defenses, Sergeant First Class Smith moved under withering enemy fire to man a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on a damaged armored personnel carrier. In total disregard for his own life, he maintained his exposed position in order to engage the attacking enemy force. During this action, he was mortally wounded. His courageous actions helped defeat the enemy attack, and resulted in as many as 50 enemy soldiers killed, while allowing the safe withdrawal of numerous wounded soldiers. Sergeant First Class Smith's extraordinary heroism and uncommon valor are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the Third Infantry Division "Rock of the Marne," and the United States Army.”

In addition to proudly displaying the Medal of Honor in front of the Columbia College Military Appreciation Day banner, Janice Pvirre also presented Conroy with a personally inscribed copy of a book she wrote titled, “My Son My Hero A Mothers Journal: Sergeant First Class Paul R Smith MEDAL OF HONOR War on Terrorism.”

Columbia College is proud to be recognized as a leader in military-friendly education.  The Fort Stewart campus will celebrate its 10th anniversary this academic year.