Navy-Marine Corps MARS in Vietnam

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Capt. Jason E. Smith

A major from Baton Rouge, La., was awarded the Silver Star July 14 for gallantry in combat while serving as the commander of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, in Iraq.

Then-Capt. Jason E. Smith led a rescue convoy through Fallujah on April 13, 2004, to reach Marines who were surrounded by enemy forces and needed support to evacuate casualties.

“To me, it wasn’t an option to just leave those guys there,” said Smith, who returned from Iraq more than a year ago and is now serving as an inspector-instructor with 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, in Baton Rouge.

Lacking accurate information about the location of his stranded platoon, Smith relied on the smoke he could see rising from a disabled amphibious assault vehicle to guide his convoy to the platoon, according to his award citation.

Insurgents in Fallujah increased their fire to keep Smith’s convoy from reaching the surrounded Marines. When the convoy slowed to a crawl, Smith dismounted his vehicle and rushed to the front of the convoy to lead it on foot.

“Disregarding his own personal safety and while exposed to enemy fire, Captain Smith returned fire and coordinated counter-attacks on enemy militia,” reads his citation.

Once he reached the stranded platoon, Smith organized a defensive perimeter around the platoon’s location and supervised the evacuation of the platoon’s casualties. He found the remains of a fallen Marine inside a disabled vehicle and ordered a tank to tow the vehicle back to the base camp during the coordination of his unit’s withdrawal.

Smith then traveled on foot behind his Marines’ convoy until it was back in friendly territory.

Smith’s citation for the nation’s third-highest medal for valor, which he received during a ceremony at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Belle Chasse, La., said his “calm demeanor and forceful character bolstered the fighting spirit of his Marines.” It describes his leadership as “bold,” his judgment as “wise” and lauds his “total dedication to duty.”

Smith’s father, Walter Smith, was awarded the Silver Star during the Vietnam War.

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