WASHINGTON, July 13, 2011 — The second living recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was inducted into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon today.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A. Petry, who was awarded the Medal of Honor yesterday by President Barack Obama, was inducted into the Hall of Heroes during a ceremony hosted by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta.
“This is really a great privilege for me, as one of my first acts as Secretary of Defense, to be able to honor a great American hero,” Panetta said. “I’ve had a long career in this town. I’ve worked in a number of capacities, but I can’t tell you what a great honor it is for me personally to honor someone like Sergeant Petry, an Army Ranger, whose historic actions saved the lives of other soldiers.”
“I often say that the greatest test of life is whether you make a difference,” he continued. “Someone who saves the lives of others makes a difference, and that’s what you did.”
The defense secretary talked about Petry’s heroic efforts and commended Navy Adm. Eric T. Olson, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, for the ongoing efforts of his troops.
“Most Americans can’t imagine the kind of life [and] death decisions Sergeant Petry had to face that day in Paktika [province]. These are the burdens that confront the men and women in uniform serving in harm’s way every day,” Panetta said.
“A member of the U.S. Army’s storied 75th Ranger Regiment, Sergeant Petry’s actions speak to the extraordinary accomplishments of the special operations forces that have been at the center of the fight this past decade,” Panetta continued.
“Admiral Olson … I can’t tell you how important they’ve been to our ability to take on the mission that we’ve been assigned, particularly to dismantle, disrupt, and ultimately defeat al-Qaida. It was a special forces team that we employed on that attack on the compound that held [Osama] bin Laden,” he said.
Panetta led the group of senior military officials in welcoming Petry into the Hall of Heroes during a the unveiling of his name on a plaque.
“Today, Leroy Petry’s name joins the hallowed ranks of other Medal of Honor recipients listed on this wall. He is truly a representative of a new generation of Americans who have answered the call during almost a decade of war,” Panetta said.
“In paying tribute to him,” Panetta said, “we also celebrate a generation that is fighting for a better life, a better America, and a better world.”
Petry expressed his gratitude as he stood before some of his fellow rangers, four other Medal of Honor recipients and a slew of senior military leadership.
“I’m humbled by this ceremony, your words, and your presence. I particularly want to thank my wife, Ashley, [and] our children … it was their love and support that kept me going on this journey,” Petry said.
“And I would like to thank my fellow rangers … the 75th Ranger Regiment has been continuously deployed over 3,500 days since the start of the war on terrorism. During that time, 55 of my fellow ranger brothers have been killed in both Afghanistan and Iraq,” he said.
Petry passionately implored the nation to remember his fellow service members who gave their lives for their country.
“As you have recognized me today, I ask that you continue to pay tribute and never forget those rangers and all other men and women of the armed services that have made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.
“Please keep their families in your thoughts and prayers. It has been my honor to serve shoulder-to-shoulder with all servicemembers, defending our nation for almost 12 years. And I look forward to my continued service with you,” Petry said. “Thank you and rangers lead the way.”
Other senior military leaders spoke during the induction, praising Petry for his selfless actions.
“Sergeant Petry joins a small, elite group of American warriors who hold our nation’s highest military honor. Thank you so much for being here and your continued service as well,” Army Secretary John McHugh said.
Army Chief of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey described the Petry family as “all-Americans” as he spoke of Petry’s service.
“This is an all-American family. They are tight, they love each other, they are supportive of each other, [and] they could not be more polite and courteous,” he said.
“When I think about the Hall of Heroes, I’m struck by how fortunate we are as a country to have generation after generation [of] men and women like Sergeant First Class Petry,” Dempsey said. “He represents the best of our nation and today we honor his valor, unbending.”
Olson, the SOCOM commander, spoke directly to Petry, on behalf of the Special Forces community to which they both belong.
“Leroy, you epitomize the spirit and ethos of our nation’s most intrepid warriors,” he said. “On behalf of a grateful and respectful special operations community, I salute you.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)