By Skip Vaughn, USAG RedstoneJuly 20, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.--Maj. Rob Shaw watched with pride from the back of the room as President Obama presented the Medal of Honor to Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A. Petry.
Petry had invited his former company commander to the July 12 ceremony in the White House. Shaw commanded D Company, 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, at Fort Lewis, Wash., from June 2008 through April 2010; and Petry was assigned to his unit as a noncommissioned officer. Shaw even got to re-enlist him April 22, 2010 at Fort Lewis.
“I think he is a consummate noncommissioned officer and leader,” Shaw said. “He’s humble. He’s a great dad " he’s got four kids, he’s a great husband/dad.
“I would tell you one of the things I find most remarkable about Leroy, he represents many of the Soldiers, Rangers and NCOs that are in the Army today. One of the things I find truly remarkable about the whole experience is what he did was absolutely heroic but there are a lot of folks that are equally remarkable. In the Ranger ranks, there are a lot of folks who are equally remarkable. These folks are unbelievable.”
Shaw is at Redstone as a student in small group Alpha of the intermediate level education program at the Command and General Staff School. In 2008 he succeeded Maj. John Chung as commander of D Company, 2nd Ranger Battalion, after the unit returned from Afghanistan. Petry lost his right hand May 26, 2008, in Pakyta, Afghanistan when his act of conspicuous gallantry saved the lives of Sgt. Daniel Higgins and Pfc. Lucas Robinson.
When President Obama placed the Medal of Honor around Petry’s neck, Shaw was in the back left corner of the East Room of the White House. So, when Petry did a half-facing movement and the president started putting the medal on him, Shaw was right in front of him.
“I think for Leroy it was probably bittersweet because of the sacrifices that many and their families have made,” Shaw said. “But I think Leroy is the right guy for a lot of reasons. He’s the right guy to get out there and tell the story about how special Soldiers are.”
Shaw described the ceremony as “surreal,” “well done” and “moving.”
“I just thought this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a part of something like this,” he said.
Shaw himself has deployed seven times, including one tour in Afghanistan and six in Iraq. He went to Afghanistan in 2003 with the 82nd Airborne Division. He served in Iraq in 2004-05 with the 1-24 Infantry Battalion (Stryker); and he was severely injured during that deployment and had to be evacuated. His other deployments were with the 75th Ranger Regiment to Iraq. Most recently he returned in April 2010.
He enlisted in the Army in 1992 and became an infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division. Shaw attended West Point Preparatory School from 1994-95 and went on to graduate from West Point in 1999 with a bachelor’s of science. His assignments have included Fort Bragg, N.C., Fort Benning, Ga., Fort Lewis (twice), Vilseck, Germany, and Fort Monmouth, N.J.
Shaw, 37, from Belmont, Mass., arrived at Redstone as a student May 5 and will be here until Aug. 20. Then he’ll return to Boston for his last year of graduate school as a Gen. Wayne Downing Fellow at Harvard University, where he has been pursuing a master’s in public policy in international global affairs since August 2010.
“And after that I’ll hopefully be an operations officer, S-3, in an infantry battalion somewhere,” Shaw said.
He and his wife, Sherry, have a son, Jack, 8, and daughter, Lily, 5.
On the night of July 11, Shaw went to the Huntsville International Airport for his trip to Washington. There he encountered Command Sgt. Maj. Jeff Mellinger, the Army Materiel Command’s command sergeant major, who is retiring from the Army after 39 years of service, including Vietnam; and Shaw had the opportunity to talk with him and shake his hand. The next morning in Washington, Shaw enlisted “a smart young guy” named Brian Lowe into the Navy.
“And then later that afternoon I saw an American hero get the Medal of Honor from President Obama,” Shaw said. “The whole trip was an opportunity to reflect from the beginning to the end on humble service. It was pretty remarkable.”