Staff Sgt. Eric Smith, who retired from the United States Marine Corps before becoming a firefighter in Irving, Texas, had his Silver Star upgraded to a Navy Cross in a recent ceremony presided over by Maj. Gen. Paul Kennedy, head of Marine Corps Recruiting Command.  The Navy Cross is the second highest valor award a war fighter can receive in the United States military, second only to the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Smith, who was first presented the Silver Star in 2004 for his actions as a Corporal in Ramadi, Iraq, received the upgrade as a part of an awards review process initiated by the Department of Defense in 2011, intended to ensure service members received the appropriate recognition for their heroic efforts in the Global War on Terror that began in 2001.

Smith was serving as a squad leader in the Second Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment, and part of his company’s quick reaction force in April of 2004.  Corporal Smith and his platoon were ordered to move north and reinforce another squad that was under attack, as a part of a series of attacks launched by insurgents that day.  As Smith and his company headed toward their fellow Marines however, they were ambushed, damaging two Humvees and critically wounding the platoon commander.  Almost immediately, both the lieutenant and staff sergeant in command of the platoon were dead, and Smith found himself the senior Marine on the scene.

Smith, a corporal at the time, assumed command of the platoon and ordered the Marines to head for a fortified position, just beyond 50 meters of open ground.  With his Marines safely behind cover, Smith then returned to the damaged convoy, braving machine gun fire and an onslaught of rocket-propelled grenades to evacuate the body of his platoon commander and his weapons.