Honoring a hero
President Obama awards the Medal of Honor to Sergeant First Class Leroy Arthur Petry at a White House ceremony Tuesday.
July 12th, 2011
05:36 PM ET

Honoring a hero

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama awarded the nation's highest medal for bravery Tuesday to a soldier who lost his hand when an enemy grenade went off just as he was throwing it clear of his fellow soldiers in what the President called "a singular act of gallantry."

Sgt. First Class Leroy Petry was serving in Paktya, Afghanistan in May 2008 when his Ranger unit was assigned to capture a high value target in a helicopter raid.

"The mission is high risk. It's broad daylight," Obama said. "The insurgents are heavily armed, but it's considered a risk worth taking because intelligence indicates that a top al Qaeda commander is in that compound."

According to the President and Army documents about the raid, Petry, a staff sergeant at the time, saw that some of his fellow soldiers were running into resistance clearing part of the primary target building so he went to help.

At one point he and another soldier, PFC Lucas Robinson, were in the courtyard of the building when enemy gunmen opened fire from just 10 yards away wounding both men.

"Leroy is hit in both legs. He's bleeding badly, but he summons the strength to lead the other ranger to cover," the President said at the White House ceremony.

With a bullet wound in both legs, Petry called for help and fought back. With the enemy fighters still firing on them, a third Ranger, Sgt. Daniel Higgins arrived to help Petry and Robinson.

Moments later, an enemy threw a grenade that blew up 30 feet from the men, injuring Higgins and Robinson, a second time. President Obama continued the narrative of bravery.

"Then a second grenade lands. This time only a few feet away. Every human impulse would tell someone to turn away. Every soldier is trained to seek cover. That's what Sergeant Leroy Petry could have done." But he didn't.

The grenade landed right next to his wounded comrades. "Recognizing the threat that the enemy grenade posed to his fellow Rangers, Petry - despite his own wounds and with complete disregard for his personal safety - consciously and deliberately risked his life to move to and secure the live enemy grenade and consciously throw the grenade away from his fellow Rangers," according to an Army website detailing the fight.

The granade exploded just as he let go... blowing his right hand off and peppering Petry with shrapnel.

Now wounded a second time, Petry remained composed and focused on the fight.

"Even his fellow Rangers were amazed at what Leroy did next," Obama said.

"Despite his grievous wounds, he remained calm.

He actually put on his own tourniquet and he continued to lead, directing his team, giving orders, even telling the medics how to treat his wounds."

About 100 members of Petry's family were at the White House to watch President Obama drape the iconic blue ribbon and gold star medal around Petry's neck.

Among them were his wife Ashley and their four children. Petry, according to an Army profile, longed to be a soldier since he was 7 years old growing up in New Mexico.

He enlisted in 1999 after graduating from Saint Catherine's Indian High School in Santa Fe. He became a Ranger shortly after training. Since then he went on two tours of duty in Iraq, and five tours in Afghanistan.

After that day in the courtyard where he lost his hand, he chose to go back for a sixth tour of duty with his Ranger battalion, fighting in the worst places in Afghanistan with only one good hand and a body still riddled with shrapnel wounds. He already has two Bronze Medals, three Army Commendation Medals, two Army Achievement Medals and a Purple Heart.

While still on active duty with the Army Rangers, Sgt. First Class Petry is in college studying for a business degree. He also enjoys golfing, fishing and hunting. After all was done in the White House East Room, Sgt. First Class Petry made a brief statement to reporters on the North Lawn.

"To be singled out was very humbling. I consider every one of our men and women in uniform serving here, abroad to be our heroes. Those - all of the uniformed services. They sacrifice every day and deserve your continued support and recognition."

Topics: Afghanistan • President Obama • The News

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  1. Robbie

    The U.S. Army has a great website honoring Leroy Petry at http://www.army.mil/medalofhonor/petry/

    July 12, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  2. Liz Carter in Georgia

    This is a another beautiful story by CNN. Sometimes they do report on good and decent activities and events that happen at the Whitehouse and with the President. Thankyou for your brave, loyal, and patriotic service to this country Sgt First Class Petry. I can only hope that your loss is compensated well; that the 'loyal patriots' back here in the Pentagon and the Congress will at least try to be as brave, loyal, and patriotic as you are! They're infighting against the 'nation' you were asked to fight for!

    July 13, 2011 at 2:58 am |
  3. Liz Carter in Georgia

    ...AMERICA is battling against itself from within, as she always has done and has never stopped. We're still not ALL considered or treated as just AMERICANS; there's still division, separatism, racism and biggotry railing against the 'minority'. The 'majority' aka the dominant race is still ranting, raving and raging to be 'supreme' commander and 'last word' over all others in AMERICA and that includes the 'elected' Commander-In-Chief! I hope that 'some' in this nation can EVER become worthy of your loss!

    July 13, 2011 at 3:24 am |
    • Jay in NC

      "We're still not ALL considered or treated as just AMERICANS" That is true. There are some that want to isolate from the rest of the country. They choose to not call them selfs Americans but hyphenated Americans. African American, Native Americans. etc.

      July 13, 2011 at 7:47 am |
      • jean2009

        Really Jay, and whose fault is that? Do you think they really choose to call themselves by a hyphenated name, or is it that it has been forced upon them by English settlers stereotyping non-English immigrants? Remember, we also hear Irish American, Italian American, Polish American, Mexican American, French American, Greek American, Asian American and a plethora of other diversification. I don't see this as a self-imposed isolation.

        Here, we in our stupidity, think it okay to expect newly arriving immigrants to speak what was a foreign language, to this entire continent for eons. Where before 1608 was English the native tongue? Do you realize for some previously early immigrants many members didn't learn English until several generations after arriving? Lawrence Welk, who was 3rd generation did not learn English until he left home at 21 years old.

        July 13, 2011 at 10:38 am |
      • Jay in NC

        Jean, the term African American was not, as you say, forced upon them by English settlers stereotyping non English immigrants. The term was originated from a poem by the name of "I Can" in 1987. The poem was written by Johnny Duncan. Jesse Jackson saw a copy of the poem in 1989 Black History Calendar that Duncan sent to Mrs Coretta King. Jackson then collaborated with Ramona Edelin and others and made the push to use the term Afr-i-can Amer-i-can.

        You are the one that stereotyped the English settlers. Your belief that only a white person would force this on society is, well racist.

        July 13, 2011 at 11:46 am |
      • jean2009

        May I ask, why is it the English speaking settler couldn't learn the native language, and persisted in speaking English? That wasn't the language the Native Indian Americans who meet their boat were speaking?

        Was it because they couldn't learn a different language? They didn't want to assimilate?
        Was it because they preferred to stereotype the Native American Indian as savages?
        Was it because a great many of them came due to religious persecution; or that a great many of them came from English prisons? Or, all of the above? Couldn't we honestly say they wanted to isolate themselves?
        Basically, they are your original isolationist, they had to have a term to label everyone else.

        You do realize, the Amish refer to everyone other than themselves as The English.

        July 13, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
      • jean2009

        Jay, I can remember when a foul term that was used for African American would be unacceptable language today...and thank heavens for that. So, I would affirm that white persons who made a better choice a necessity, were racist.

        July 13, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
      • Jay in NC

        Jean, is that the same foul term that we hear in rap songs? I am sure in your twisted logic a white man made them say it. No responsibility, blame it on someone else, what a sorry way to live ones life.

        July 13, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
      • Jay in NC

        Jean, English language is full of native words, check out the list on wikipedia.


        English is a flexible dynamic language. Less stringent than French, Spanish, or German. English is made up of words from all over the world. That is one reason it has won over other languages.

        You have a limited view of the people in the past. It is a shame that you think that only because of racism that they would choose to continue primarily speaking English. You have not truly put yourself in their position. Consider this, if a native american does not have a word for, or never saw a 'hinge', you would continue to call it a 'hinge.' And that goes for most tools, structures, cooking ware, etc. If the native Americans did not have a book for you to read, should you give up the Bible, your maps, poetry, or Shakespeare? Basically you would have to forgo 4000 years of history and live like a, ( I will get heat for this) savage.

        People were just living their lives, making small decisions to better their families. Tell the truth, would you have chose to use a wooden stick to dig in the ground or a English forged steal shovel? Most of the world had given up the native american way of life 1000s of years before.

        July 13, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  4. Liz Carter in Georgia

    Jean, thank you for your input. Jay, when we decided to call ourselves African American, it was not due to a need to be 'isolated' from Americans! We were and have always been 'set aside' or 'isolated'; stereotyped by the dominant or supreme American! The reason we decided to refer to our ownselves as African Americans is because that is who we really are! We were sick of the divisive names that Euro-Americans had already 'isolated' and assigned to us! Negroes, Coloreds, Blackies, Nigras, even Niggers....

    July 13, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  5. Liz Carter in Georgia

    ...and those divisive identifiers are just a few! There are many other mean and nasty ones such as 'coons', 'jiggaboos', and 'sambos'. And you have the gall Jay to sit up there and say we wanted to isolate our ownselves from Americans. You had already done a good job of that! Are you saying we should'nt ALL be treated like Americans because we chose to go ahead and give ourselves an identifying group name, rather than to live, work, fight and die for America, under the separating/divisive names you gave us?

    July 13, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
    • Jay in NC

      You say "You had already done a good job of that!" How dare you, you do not know if I am white black or blue. You don't know my age or sex. You do not know if I defended black people or prosecuted them. Yet you dare to make the assumption that because I disagree that I am racist? That I had caused the divide between race? I simply hold a different point of view than you do.

      July 13, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
      • jean2009

        Jay, for starters my birth certificate states I was born in a town with a native American name, so no need to search any website for native place names/terms....I'm already from an area rich in Pre-Columbian monuments, and relics.

        Whether English is a flexible dynamic language, or native cultures accepted better tools has no bearing on the topic at hand. You are off topic and floundering. The only pertinent fact is white English speaking people brought people from Africa to this country as slaves.

        Suggested reading: Mark Twain's – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn...or attend a performance of Big River. You will discover that rappers were not the first to use the term. Neither was Mark Twain..it and many other terms were originally used to put people down.

        This is even worse than your trying to say the current mess happened in the last two years. So, I will repeat history doesn't happen in a vacuum.

        July 13, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
      • Jay in NC

        Jean, you asked the questions "Was it because they couldn't learn a different language? " and "Was it because they preferred to stereotype the Native American Indian as savages?"

        July 13, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
  6. Liz Carter in Georgia

    There have been over 500 years of separatism and division forced on, or practiced in America by the dwindling 'supremast' group. Oh, and they do die-hard! Any group or race of people who were here already, who were brought, who migrated here or who are even born here, are immediately documented under their hyphenated heritaged group names, along with the mean, nasty divisive names too, by many of the 'established' Euro-American Supremast Sytem! So argue something else, Jay! Argue with the Census Bureau!

    July 13, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  7. Liz Carter in Georgia

    You dare me?!? LOL! Throughout my last few posts on this thread, I was responding to your response to me that African Americans chose to isolate ourselves from Americans, by using our hyphenated names! I debunked that theory by speaking to and of the 'supremasts of the dominant race'! Now if all you got out of it was I was accusing or blaming YOU as being one of them, all I can say is 'hit dogs holler'! You may have been born into it like I was, but YOU certainly couldn't have made that big of a difference!

    July 13, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
    • Jay in NC

      Liz, you said " And you have the gall Jay to sit up there and say we wanted to isolate our ownselves from Americans. You had already done a good job of that!"

      You were clearly saying that I had done it.

      July 13, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
      • jean2009

        Jay, at 76, I can tell you not only flunked history, you are a racist fool... and straight up, I will also tell that you keep digging that hole you are in deeper.

        July 13, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
      • Jay in NC


        July 13, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
      • jean2009

        The below is from a Washington State University study on Native American languages:

        "The languages spoken by the Native Americans are mind-bogglingly diverse and nearly numberless. The first rule of thumb in approaching Native American cultures is that you're dealing with a near infinity of cultures that are as diverse from one another as the remainder of human cultures. One cannot possibly hope to even come close to understanding the world view of even a small fraction of these cultures, so you must keep on your guard that you not treat any Native American culture or any Native American language as applicable to all other Native American cultures. The number of Native American languages still being spoken numbers around 2000, of which two hundred or so are spoken in North America, 300-400 are spoken in Central America, and a mind-numbing 1400-1500 are still spoken in South America. No-one is smart enough even to understand the rudiments of a representative sample of these languages! This diversity can be astonishing: in New Mexico, languages as different as Japanese and French exist practically in the same neighborhood while Eskimos from Alaska to Greenland speak languages so similar that they can mutually understand one another even across continent-sized distances.
        The other thing you need to dispense with is the idea of "primitive," either in relation to culture or language. All human cultures and all human languages extend their history back an equal amount of time; they have all developed over that time but they have developed in different ways. So there is no such thing, really, as a "stagnant" or "primitive" culture or language. When Europeans first encountered Native Americans, they believed Native American language to be one such "primitive" language, and this notion survived into the late nineteenth century. But language is rather a dynamically evolving system that both produces worldview and is produced by it."

        So that sort of shoots a hole in your whole hypothesis.

        July 13, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
      • Jay in NC

        No, it does not. If they never saw a hinge they would not know what to call it. Same for all the other advanced tools the English brought to this side of the world. My comment was not that their language lacked structure or diversity, but that it lacked the names of items they had not thought of.

        July 13, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
      • jean2009

        Jay ...in what parallel universe were you born?

        The English language adds foreign words every day: .Haboob and Arabic word for a great dust storm. I assure you native Americans had tools and plants the English, and other settlers, encountered items for which they didn't have a word. Maize ...succotash...lacrosse. It was a two way street of exchanging ideas. It wasn't just the English came here and did it all.

        And, No that does not have any bearing on this discussion.. You want to pick and choose each minor part of the discussion that you think you can win a point on. Frankly that is because you know you have lost the argument.

        The first African slave arrived in United States....British colonies in 1619....Look it up: Slavery in the United States. It was certainly practiced by the early settlers. "The first English colony in North America, Virginia, acquired its first Africans in 1619, after a ship arrived, unsolicited, carrying a cargo of about 20 Africans."

        We are discussing slavery, segregation and the imposed isolation by English speaking settlers against various persons due to their race or ethnicity...did you miss that whole part of history, or do you just want to avoid that it happened?

        I assume you have no knowledge of Jim Crow Laws after the civil war?
        No knowledge of people being required to drink at specific water fountains, or sit at the back of the bus?
        People denied seats at lunch counters.
        I assume you don't believe people from Africa were brought to this country and sold as slaves?
        That many of their families were split apart and sold.

        With your record you probably also agree with Ahmadinejad that there were no Nazi concentration camps.
        Are you a card carrying member of the KKK....or just historical challenged?

        July 14, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  8. Liz Carter in Georgia

    We took that same negative word that was labled or lodged upon us by the supremast element, and turned it for many of us, a 'term of endearment'. I personally try not to use it because I remember to well what the negative conotation of it was, but the younger generations took what was meant for bad and turned it into good! They also use it in controversy, argument and debate. Yes, it's also used negatively too by some of us; the basic reason it was 'devised'! It's just each to his own definition these days!

    July 13, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  9. bob

    this article is about a ranger getting the medal of honor and all you rejects can do is argue about racism! at least stay on the freaking topic of the military! good god Americans are idiots. that's it iam moving to Canada, i don't care if its colder. Americans are too bloody stupid to be around.

    July 13, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • jean2009

      Sorry Bob, it is a long story...my best and thanks to a true American hero Sgt. First Cass. Leroy Petry.

      July 14, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  10. Liz Carter in Georgia

    Thanks Jean! I can't even top that! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Jay, you did sit up there and say we 'isolated' ourselves from other Americans! However, I tried to explain to you my next sentence that began with 'You', but if that's all you got, and you want to keep crying and trying to call me out on my whole response with that, I'm doing good!

    July 13, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  11. Liz Carter in Georgia

    @bob; jean, jay, and I have been at it often on this blog about racism. Ihave to say that this time I may be the one guilty of pouring salt in an open womb of an ongoing racist agenda in America! If you have taken the effort to read my blogs, you will see that I was in fact praising the MOH recipient Sgt 1st Class Petry. I then was approached by Jay, with the stupidest rebuttal and justification of recent times! BTW, You'll find under another thread where Jean's already congratulated and acknowledged PETRY!

    July 15, 2011 at 12:10 am |
    • jean2009

      @Liz, I consider no apology necessary. I can't understand people like Jay. It is unnecessary for someone to be so rude, offensive and belittling of any other person. I know we may have upset Bob, but no one should tolerate someone being a racist, that is just plain unacceptable.

      I wonder if Jay, will even notice that I slipped in the French word "lacrosse" for the Algonquian-Indian word baaga'adowe....which only proves, the English settlers didn't coin all the words used to describe everything new found on this continent. So, what if the English brought hinges, they found a wealth of flora and fauna that changed the world they came from more than we ever stop to consider.

      July 15, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
  12. Liz Carter in Georgia

    Thanks Jean. Me either!

    July 18, 2011 at 11:22 am |