By Michael Schindler
Greatness shows up in the moment. And some moments require split second decisions — and those decisions reflect character. Army Ranger Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry displayed the character of a true leader by engaging in a selfless act that saved the lives of his team and ultimately changed his life forever.
On May 26, 2008, Petry and his team were conducting a rare daytime raid to capture a high-value target in Paktya, Afghanistan. Their mission was standard: Secure the building and establish it as the platoon headquarters. Once complete, Petry was to serve as the senior noncommissioned officer at the site for the remainder of the operation.
Petry learned that one of his assault squads needed help clearing the building so he went to provide additional supervision and guidance. The squad cleared the residential portion of the building and then Petry took Pfc. Lucas Robinson to clear the outer courtyard.
As the Army reports, at least three enemy fighters, positioned at opposite ends of the courtyard, were waiting for them.
Petry took bullets through both legs and Robinson was hit in his side plate by another round. Petry led Robinson to cover behind a chicken coop while the enemy continued to fire. Petry called in reinforcements.
Sgt. Daniel Higgins, a team leader at the building, moved to the outer courtyard to help his fellow Rangers. As Higgins was evaluating the two wounded soldiers, an enemy grenade landed 10 meters from the three soldiers. The explosion knocked them to the ground and wounded Higgins and Robinson. Two additional Rangers moved in to help.
The enemy threw another grenade that landed just a few feet from Higgins and Robinson. Despite his own wounds, Petry made that split second decision to move toward the grenade, grabbed it and threw it away from his fellow Rangers. As a result, Petry lost his right hand and suffered shrapnel wounds.
Sgt. 1st Class Petry, who has deployed eight times since Sept. 11, 2001, will be recognized for his actions on May 2008 by receiving the Medal of Honor on July 12 at the White House. He is the ninth service member to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. The first seven were awarded posthumously. Petry joins Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta as the second living Medal of Honor recipient.
Petry joined the Army in September 1999 and is currently assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment and attached to the Special Operations Command. He serves at Joint Base Lewis-McChord as a liaison for the SOCOM Care Coalition, where he tracks and monitors injured Rangers returning from combat operations to the initial place of care, then to home station care.
Sgt. 1st Class Petry, we salute you.
Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.” He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.