Monday, July 4, 2011

A medal earned

This is from the official news release from the Army detailing Leroy A. Petry's actions in battle.

WASHINGTON — An Army Ranger from New Mexico 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.

On July 12, President Barack Obama will award Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry with the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry. Petry will receive the award for his courageous actions during combat operations against an armed enemy in Paktya, Afghanistan, on May 26, 2008. 

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 was assigned to Company D, 2nd Bn., 75th Ranger Regiment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., at the time he was injured in battle.

“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.

The actions that would earn Petry the Medal of Honor came as part of a rare daylight raid to capture a high-value target, states a news release from the Army. Petry, the senior noncommissioned officer at the target building, recognized one of the assault squads needed assistance clearing a building of residents.

Once the residential portion of the building had been cleared, Petry took a fellow member of the assault squad, Pvt. 1st Class Lucas Robinson, to clear the outer courtyard. 

As Petry and Robinson entered the courtyard, an enemy 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.

Petry and Robinson took cover behind a chicken coop as three insurgents continued to fire at them. Petry reported the soldiers’ situation and Sgt. Daniel Higgins, a team leader, moved to the outer courtyard. Petry threw a thermobaric grenade at the enemy, creating a lull in enemy fire and allowing Higgins to join the soldiers behind the chicken coop.

While Higgins evaluated their wounds, an insurgent threw a grenade over the chicken coop. The grenade landed about 30 feet from the soldiers, knocked them to the ground, and wounded 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.

An enemy fighter threw another grenade at soldiers taking cover behind the chicken coop. This time, the grenade landed just a few feet from Higgins and Robinson.

Recognizing the threat, Petry — despite his own wounds — risked his life to grab the grenade and throw it back toward the enemy, according to battlefield reports. As Petry released the grenade, it detonated and blew off his right hand.

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

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

After the blast, Roberts suppressed the enemy with small arms fire and a grenade. Shortly after, another enemy on the other end of the courtyard began firing at the soldiers, killing 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 Petry to a safe location.

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 Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta were awarded the honor posthumously.

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

Petry enlisted in the Army from his hometown of Santa Fe 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, Ga. — Petry 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 served two tours to Iraq and six tours to Afghanistan.

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

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