Wounded Soldier to Receive Medal of Honor

WASHINGTON — An Army Ranger who lost his right hand and suf­fered shrap­nel wounds after throw­ing an armed grenade away from his fel­low sol­diers will be the sec­ond liv­ing Medal of Hon­or recip­i­ent from the con­flicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Medal of Honor
Army Staff Sgt. Leroy A. Petry, now serv­ing as part of Head­quar­ters and Head­quar­ters Com­pa­ny, 75th Ranger Reg­i­ment, at Fort Ben­ning, Ga., will receive the Medal of Hon­or from Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma on July 12, 2011.
U.S. Army pho­to
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On July 12, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma will present the nation’s high­est award for bat­tle­field gal­lantry to Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry for his actions dur­ing May 26, 2008, com­bat oper­a­tions against an armed ene­my in Afghanistan’s Pak­tia province.

Petry now serves as part of Head­quar­ters and Head­quar­ters Com­pa­ny, 75th Ranger Reg­i­ment, at Fort Ben­ning, Ga.

“It’s very hum­bling to know that the guys thought that much of me and my actions that day to nom­i­nate me for that,” said Petry, on learn­ing he had been nom­i­nat­ed for the medal. At the time of his actions in Afghanistan, Petry was assigned to Com­pa­ny D, 2nd Bat­tal­ion, 75th Ranger Reg­i­ment, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. His actions came as part of a rare day­light raid to cap­ture a high-val­ue tar­get.

Petry was to locate him­self with the pla­toon head­quar­ters in the tar­get­ed build­ing once it was secured. Once there, he was to serve as the senior non­com­mis­sioned offi­cer at the site for the remain­der of the oper­a­tion.

Rec­og­niz­ing one of the assault squads need­ed help clear­ing their assigned build­ing, Petry relayed to the pla­toon leader that he was mov­ing to that squad to pro­vide addi­tion­al super­vi­sion and guid­ance. Once the res­i­den­tial por­tion of the build­ing had been cleared, Petry took a fel­low mem­ber of the assault squad, Pfc. Lucas Robin­son, to clear the out­er court­yard. Petry knew that area had not been cleared dur­ing the ini­tial clear­ance.

Petry and Robin­son, both Rangers, moved into an area of the com­pound that con­tained at least three ene­my fight­ers who were pre­pared to engage friend­ly forces from oppo­site ends of the out­er court­yard.

As the two sol­diers entered the court­yard, to their front was an open­ing, fol­lowed by a chick­en coop. As they crossed the open area, an ene­my insur­gent fired on them. Petry was wound­ed by one round, which went through both of his legs. Robin­son was also hit in his side plate by a sep­a­rate round.

While wound­ed and under ene­my fire, Petry led Robin­son to the cov­er of the chick­en coop as the ene­my fight­ers con­tin­ued to fire at them.

As the senior sol­dier, Petry assessed the sit­u­a­tion. He report­ed that con­tact was made and that two wound­ed Rangers were in the court­yard of the pri­ma­ry tar­get build­ing. Upon hear­ing the report, Sgt. Daniel Hig­gins, a team leader, moved to the out­er court­yard.

As Hig­gins was mov­ing to Petry and Robinson’s posi­tion, Petry threw a ther­mo­bar­ic grenade near the ene­my posi­tion. Short­ly after that grenade explod­ed and cre­at­ed a lull in the ene­my fire, Hig­gins arrived at the chick­en coop and was assess­ing his com­rades’ wounds when an insur­gent threw a grenade over the chick­en coop at the three Rangers. The grenade land­ed about 10 yards from the sol­diers, knock­ing them to the ground and wound­ing Hig­gins and Robin­son.

Short­ly after the grenade explod­ed, Staff Sgt. James Roberts and Spc. Christo­pher Gath­er­cole entered the court­yard and moved toward the chick­en coop.

With three sol­diers tak­ing cov­er in the chick­en coop, an ene­my fight­er threw anoth­er grenade at them. This time, the grenade land­ed just a few feet from Hig­gins and Robin­son.

Rec­og­niz­ing the threat that the ene­my grenade posed to his fel­low Rangers, Petry — despite his own wounds and with com­plete dis­re­gard for his per­son­al safe­ty — con­scious­ly and delib­er­ate­ly risked his life to move to and secure the live ene­my grenade and throw it away from his fel­low Rangers, accord­ing to bat­tle­field reports.

As Petry released the grenade in the direc­tion of the ene­my, pre­vent­ing the seri­ous injury or death of Hig­gins and Robin­son, it det­o­nat­ed and ampu­tat­ed his right hand.

Petry assessed his wound and placed a tourni­quet on his right arm. He then report­ed that he was still in con­tact with the ene­my and that he had been wound­ed again.

After the blast that ampu­tat­ed Petry’s hand, Roberts began to engage the ene­my behind the chick­en coop with small-arms fire and a grenade. His actions sup­pressed the insur­gents behind the chick­en coop. Short­ly after, anoth­er ene­my fight­er on the east end of the court­yard began fir­ing, fatal­ly wound­ing Gath­er­cole.

Hig­gins and Robin­son returned fire and killed the ene­my.

Moments lat­er, Sgt. 1st Class Jerod Stai­dle, the pla­toon sergeant, and Spc. Gary Depriest, the pla­toon medic, arrived in the out­er court­yard. After direct­ing Depriest to treat Gath­er­cole, Stai­dle moved to Petry’s posi­tion. Stai­dle and Hig­gins then assist­ed Petry as he moved to the casu­al­ty col­lec­tion point.

Hig­gins lat­er wrote in a state­ment, “If not for Staff Sergeant Petry’s actions, we would have been seri­ous­ly wound­ed or killed.”

Petry is the ninth ser­vice­mem­ber to have been named a recip­i­ent of the Medal of Hon­or for actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. All but Petry and Army Staff Sgt. Sal­va­tore Giun­ta were award­ed the hon­or posthu­mous­ly.

Army Spc. Ross A. McGin­nis, Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith, Navy Pet­ty Offi­cer 2nd Class Michael A. Mon­soor and Marine Corps Cpl. Jason L. Dun­ham all received the Medal of Hon­or for actions in Iraq. Giun­ta, Army Staff Sgt. Robert Miller, Army Sgt. 1st Class Jared C. Mon­ti and Navy Lt. Michael P. Mur­phy were award­ed the Medal of Hon­or for actions in Afghanistan.

Petry cur­rent­ly serves as a liai­son offi­cer for the U.S. Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand Care Coali­tion North­west Region, and pro­vides over­sight to wound­ed war­riors, ill and injured ser­vice­mem­bers and their fam­i­lies.

He enlist­ed in the Army from his home­town of San­ta Fe, N.M., in Sep­tem­ber 1999. After com­ple­tion of One Sta­tion Unit Train­ing, the Basic Air­borne Course and the Ranger Assess­ment and Selec­tion Pro­gram — all at Fort Ben­ning — he was assigned to 2nd Bat­tal­ion, 75th Ranger Reg­i­ment.

Petry has served as a grenadier, squad auto­mat­ic rifle­man, fire team leader, squad leader, oper­a­tions sergeant and weapons squad leader. He has deployed eight times, with two tours to Iraq and six tours to Afghanistan.

Petry and his wife, Ash­ley, have four chil­dren: Brit­tany, Austin, Rea­gan and Lan­don.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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