Medal of Honor Recipient Joins Fellow Heroes in ‘Hall’

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)