Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry, with the 75th Ranger Regiment, received the Medal of Honor Tuesday from President Barack Obama during a White House ceremony.
“Today is only the second time during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — indeed, only the second time since Vietnam — that a recipient of the Medal of Honor from an ongoing conflict has been able to accept this medal in person,” the president said. “And having just spent some time with Leroy, his lovely wife Ashley, their wonderful children, in the Oval Office, then had a chance to see the entire Petry family here — I have to say this could not be happening to a nicer guy or a more inspiring family.”
Petry earned the medal for his actions May 26, 2008, while deployed in Paktya Province, Afghanistan.
Assigned to D Company, 2nd Battalion, Petry’s actions came as part of a daylight raid to capture a high-value target.
“It’s a little out of the norm,” Petry said of conducting the mission. “It’s never a good thing. We don’t like to because our odds are a little lower. But just like any other mission, we said we’re going to go out there and do what we do. Execute the mission.”
Rangers, he said, run roughly 400 missions during a four-month deployment.
“You can see two missions in one night,” he said. “That’s how busy the ops tempo is. We go out and come back in and then — hey, wait, there’s something else, go back out. OK. Drive on.”But things became dangerous for Petry and his team when insurgents opened fire.
Pfc. Lucas Robinson was at Petry’s side. The two were to clear the outer courtyard of the target building. It was there the two first saw the enemy.
“I remember seeing the guy out of my peripheral vision,” Petry said. “Two guys with AKs at their hip, just spraying. And one happened to strike me right in the thighs. I didn’t know I was hit in both thighs, but it hit my left thigh.”
Robinson was also hit, Petry said.
“He was struck right in his ribcage on his left side and he continued along and followed behind me,” he said.
While wounded and under enemy fire, Petry led Robinson to the cover of a chicken coop in the courtyard. The enemy continued to deliver fire at the two Soldiers.
Petry reported enemy contact, and as a result, team member Sgt. Daniel Higgins moved to the outer courtyard. As Higgins moved toward the chicken coop to meet with the two wounded Soldiers, Petry threw a thermobaric grenade toward the enemy. That explosion caused a lull in enemy fire.
As Higgins evaluated the wounds of both Petry and Robinson, an insurgent threw a grenade over the chicken coop. The grenade landed about 10 meters from the three Rangers, knocked them to the ground, and wounded Higgins and Robinson.
With three Soldiers taking cover in the coop, an insurgent threw yet another grenade. This time, it landed just a few feet from the three Soldiers — much closer than the earlier one.
“It was almost instinct — off training,” Petry said of his response. “It was probably going to kill all three of us. I had time to visually see the hand grenade. And I figure it’s got about a four-and-half-second fuse, depending on how long it has been in the elements and the weather and everything and how long the pin has been pulled. I figure if you have time to see it you have time to kick it, throw it, just get it out there.”
Petry picked up the grenade and threw it away from him and his buddies. The grenade exploded as he threw it — destroying his throwing arm.
During the ceremony, Obama repeated what one of Petry’s teammates said: “‘I had never seen someone hurt so bad.’ So even his fellow Rangers were amazed at what Leroy did next. Despite his grievous wounds, he remained calm. He actually put on his own tourniquet. And he continued to lead, directing his team, giving orders — even telling the medics how to treat his wounds.
“To be singled out is very humbling,” said Petry, according to CNN. “I consider every one of our men and women in uniform to be our heroes.”
Editor’s note: Information from the Army News Service was used in this report.