March 20, 2006
Grunt gets Silver Star for heroism in firefight
By John Hoellwarth
Times staff writer
With his platoon commander down and losing life by the second on a violent street in Ramadi, Iraq, Sgt. Eric Smith did what just about any good Marine would do — he ran through hell to get him.
Smith would become one of many from 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, to be rewarded for valor in combat during heavy fighting in April 2004 in Ramadi.
On Feb. 17, he was pinned with a Silver Star in Waxahachie, Texas, where he now lives as a civilian.
On April 6, 2004, Smith was a corporal serving as a squad leader in the quick-reaction force. Around 11 a.m., Smith’s squad from Echo Company got the call to reinforce Marines under heavy enemy fire in the eastern section of the city.
All was quiet when the squad arrived, so the Marines started checking houses up and down the street for insurgents.
Then, “all hell broke loose,” Smith said. “We took fire from every angle. [Rocket-propelled grenades] were flying in. I remember a group of insurgents about 50 feet away shooting heavy machine guns. It became a full-scale battle.”
Smith’s first move was to get most of his men out of their tactical vehicles, where they were easy targets.
First Lt. John Wroblewski, Smith’s platoon commander, stayed with his vehicle to radio to the command post that they had met heavy resistance and were receiving fire.
“Then, I see that the commander’s been hit. He’s about 75 meters away from me. I’m in an open field, and he’s lying in the road next to his vehicle,” Smith said. “I saw him lying there, and instinct took over. Not only is he my platoon commander, he’s also a very good friend. So I took off.”
Smith ran through a flurry of enemy rifle and machine-gun fire toward his wounded commander. He flopped down next to Wroblewski and saw that Wroblewski’s lower jaw was gone. Smith grabbed the lieutenant, threw him over his shoulder and took off across the field, back through the barrage of fire.
Smith ordered his corpsman and two other Marines to grab a Humvee and get the lieutenant back to the command post.
Through the firefight
Then, he ran back through the firefight to the radio Wroblewski had been using in the Humvee but found it to be inoperable.
He collected the lieutenant’s gear and rushed once again across the fire-swept field to where the rest of his Marines were engaging the enemy from covered positions.
“About seven in the evening, the major combat stopped. The insurgents quit or we killed them,” Smith said.
Smith then planned the evacuation of casualties and coordinated with an Army unit to evacuate the remaining Marines.
According to Smith’s award citation, he devised the withdrawal plan for all units back to the command post.
When he returned to the command post, “I found out that my platoon commander had died in the helicopter on the way to Baghdad,” Smith said.
“I want to make sure everybody here knows that many young men, 19, 20, 21 years old, do this on a daily basis,” he said during the award ceremony.
“It’s not just me. I don’t want this to be my day. I didn’t do it alone.”
If that doesn't splash some cold water on your day, nothing will.
Bravo and Godspeed to all our servicemen and women.
Seems odd he would get out after the Silver Star. I would think he would have his ticket punched for SgtMaj or the like, had he stayed in????????
Seen too much to stay. Has a family, and wants to see his boy/s grow.
Agreed. Educated guess says he got out before the award was ever submitted or processed...The Corps is very diligent and stingy insofar as who gets such awards. As such, it takes time for them to investigate and process the award....
ETA: Semer Fi, Marine! You've done your Country, the Corps, and your unit proud!