Medal of Honor hero talks training, choices to Soldiers
January 19, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla. (Jan. 19, 2012) -- Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry's fate was stitched together by Army training, a pre-determined plan, and a pineapple grenade.
He came to Fort Sill Jan. 12 to share his story with Soldiers as the second living, active-duty service member to receive the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On May 26, 2008, Petry was serving in the 2nd Platoon, D Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, as they performed an unusual daytime mission to get a high value target in Afghanistan's Paktia province.
He was shot through both of his legs and was taking cover with two other Soldiers when an enemy grenade landed nearby.
Petry had thought about what he would do if faced with this situation before, and it was this thought process that turned into action.
"You hear stories of guys jumping on grenades and whatnot. Well, being trained with grenades you know that it has up to a five-second fuse. And I had always thought, why do people jump on them? Now granted, if you're in an enclosed space in a building, in a room, in a vehicle -- you kind of cover it up to protect your buddies. Well, being in an outside environment, I said if you have time to see it, you have time to kick it, throw it, whatever. And that's what was in my mind at the time," said Petry.
As the fuse was expiring, Petry picked up the pineapple grenade to throw it away.
"As I opened my hand it just exploded, completely took the hand off. I looked at it for a second and in my mind I thought, 'Why isn't this thing spraying in the wind like you see in the Hollywood movies?' And the next thing that kicked in was the reality of, well the hand is gone. What to do next? Put on a tourniquet."
He told Sill's Soldiers that his training took over as he kept performing his duties as a senior noncommissioned officer on the team.
"I think the adrenaline, but also the responsibility that I felt kept me mentally in the fight. I mean if I didn't have any of my limbs except for one, I could still get on the radio. I could still fire commands. I could still fight, as long as I'm coherent. And so that's the way I looked at it," he explained.
Petry also stressed the importance of discipline as he said there is no time to be lax downrange. While his battle buddies were worried for his safety, he told them to stay focused and keep pulling security.
"Take the job seriously because when you get overseas there's no second chances," said Petry.
He said taking the time to teach Soldiers will keep leaders from feeling any guilt over losing someone from lack of training.
After safely coming home to his wife and four children, Petry was still ready for more. He chose to re-enlist because he said the opportunity to still serve in the military was too great. It was something he had wanted to do since he was 7 years old.
"I kind of hit a wall when I lost my arm of, 'well I can't do the same job,' so then I had to find a new direction," Petry said. "Then I found a job that I love doing -- helping wounded Soldiers -- and then with the medal it just brought more upon talking and meeting with other Soldiers, so it's a positive thing."
His heroism has been celebrated all over but when asked how he felt about his actions, Petry said he simply had no regrets and that his son summed it up the best.
"They asked, 'How do you feel about your dad receiving the Medal of Honor and being at the White House?' He said 'I'm pretty proud of my dad, but I'm happy that he saved two of his friends and they're still here.'"
Petry is currently assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Ga., with duties as a liaison officer for the United States Special Operations Command Care Coalition-Northwest Region