Army STARRS Authors

Medal of Honor Recipient SSG Leroy A Petry, US Army

By STARRS Board Member, Patti Stuart, USAFA 1987

Modern-day hero Leroy Petry was born in New Mexico in 1979. Shortly after graduating from Saint Catherine’s Indian High School in Santa Fe, he fulfilled his dream of enlisting in the U.S. Army. He immediately volunteered for the 75th Ranger Regiment because of its venerable history, as well as Leroy’s strong sense of duty and service.

After training at Fort Benning, he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion of the 75th. He served in various roles including Squad Leader, Operations Sergeant and Weapons Squad leader, deploying eight times to overseas contingency operations, including two tours in Iraq and six tours in Afghanistan.

On May 26, 2008, while serving as Weapons Squad Leader in Afghanistan’s Paktia Province, SSgt Petry was tasked to execute a rare daylight raid to capture a high-value target. During clearing operations in the courtyard outside the target house, two insurgents inside opened fire with AK-47s, spraying the courtyard and hitting him in both legs. Fellow Ranger, Pvt 1st Class Lucas Robinson, was struck in his side. The two took cover behind a chicken coop, calling for assistance from another team member.

Petry threw a thermobaric grenade (a special weapon generating an unusually high temp/high pressure explosion) at the enemies enabling Sgt Daniel Higgins to quickly assist his pinned teammates. While Higgins assessed the wounds to Petry and Robinson, the insurgents lobbed a grenade toward the men. Though it did not land directly in their midst, it nonetheless injured both Robinson and Higgins.

Another grenade was lobbed immediately afterwards, landing mere feet from the three men. Without hesitation and without regard to his own safety, SSgt Petry snatched the grenade up and hurled it toward the insurgents. Unfortunately, the grenade denotated just after leaving Petry’s hand. The explosion blew his hand off. Still keeping his cool in the face of this horrific turn of events, he put a tourniquet on his stump of an arm and radioed for help. Other Rangers soon arrived, reinforcing the effort, aiding the injured and, ultimately, ensuring mission success.

A determined patriot, Petry continued to serve after his injury, now with a prosthetic arm. Assigned to the Special Operations Command’s Warrior Care Program – the Care Coalition – Petry helped his injured brothers/sisters-in-arms navigate through their painful recoveries, rehabilitations and reintegrations, through the empathy he shared from kindred experiences. A humble man, Petry often says that he considers those who did not come home to be “the real heroes”. His prosthetic arm bears the names of all the lost 2nd Battalion Rangers, so that their names and memories will always be close to him. Petry is a husband and the father of four children – roles he values as his most important.

Recently, the Military Times asked Petry what advice he would give to young Americans. His response is inspiring: “Every day you think you are having a hard time, look to your left and to your right. There’s going to be somebody that’s having it harder than you are. And it’s on those days that you go pick them up…Because it makes a difference in people’s lives.” In that same interview, he strongly advocates using the time you have to make a difference in others’ lives and making our communities a better place to live.

Watch the interview

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