Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry will join an elite class of military members Tuesday as he becomes the second living recipient, and ninth overall, of the Medal of Honor from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Petry, 31, lost his right hand and suffered other wounds during a combat operation May 26, 2008, in Paktya, Afghanistan. He protected fellow Army Rangers by picking up a grenade and throwing it out of harm’s way, but the grenade detonated as Petry released it. According to a story in the Army Times, he remained calm and reported his injuries over the radio.
His story should sound impressive to anyone, and it’s extremely impressive to me. I was in a rollover car accident Feb. 8, 2009, and my left hand was amputated, so I know what it’s like to lose a hand. But what I don’t know, and hope to never know, is what it feels like to have my hand blown off by a detonating grenade. My car accident was painful, to say the least, but I can’t even imagine the pain he must have felt. Then through all that pain, he managed to tie a tourniquet on his arm and use his radio to report his injuries. It takes a lot of courage and bravery not to panic once you realize your hand is gone, so Petry’s story really surprises and impresses me.
Petry, from Santa Fe, N.M., will be honored Tuesday at the White House and Wednesday at the Pentagon. At the White House, President Barack Obama will present the award to him. Petry has been enlisted in the Army since 1999 and has been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan for a total of 28 months. He is currently based at Joint Base Lewis McChord near Olympia, Wash., where he keeps track of returning injured Rangers as they adjust to moving home. Petry is married and the father of four.
According to a White House press release, to receive the Medal of Honor, “the meritorious conduct must involve great personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his or her comrades and must have involved risk of life. “
Petry’s actions perfectly fit that description. Even though losing his right hand isn’t much when he could have died, it still makes life hard. He didn’t have to grab at the grendade to get it away from the other soldiers, but he did it anyway. He’s living with consequences of his actions now, as he will forever be one-handed, but if I had to guess, he’d probably say it’s a small price to pay.
I’m excited to cover this event Tuesday at the White House because Petry has the bravest story compared to those I’ve heard from other amputees when I went through occupational therapy. He unselfishly protected his troops and sacrificed his own body for it. Not many people can say that, and that’s why he’s being recognized with this prestigious honor. He’s an amputee that the rest of us can look up to and respect.