Profiles of Valor: SSG Leroy Petry
“I reached over, leaned over to the right, grabbed [the grenade], and I threw it as hard as I could.”
Leroy Petry is a Santa Fe, New Mexico, native of Mexican descent. He is the third of five sons born to Larry and Lorella Petry. As a teenager, he played football and basketball, excelled at auto maintenance, and his favorite hobby was cooking. After graduating high school, he worked for a year at a vehicle repair facility with his father and grandfather.
Inspired by a cousin who was an Army Ranger, Leroy enlisted in September 1999 and completed Infantry One Station Unit Training, Airborne training, and the Ranger Indoctrination Program at Fort Benning, Georgia. After getting his Ranger tab, Leroy was assigned to Delta Company, 2nd Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment. He served a total of eight deployments, two with Operation Iraqi Freedom and six with Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
He held a succession of combat roles as a grenadier, squad automatic rifleman, fireteam leader, squad leader, operations sergeant, and weapons squad leader.
On May 26, 2008, while on a daylight mission to capture a high-value target from the Taliban in Paktia Province, Afghanistan, he and his team of seven Rangers encountered more than 40 Taliban. Immediately after exiting the helicopter at their drop point, they encountered fierce enemy fire.
Engaging three of the Taliban fighters in a courtyard, Petry and PFC Lucas Robinson were both wounded. Under heavy enemy fire, Petry led Robinson to safety with the assistance of Sgt. Daniel Higgins and two other Rangers. He then threw a thermobaric grenade at the enemy position to provide cover. The Taliban returned several grenades, the first wounding two other Rangers. When a Taliban fighter threw a second grenade, which landed feet from Higgins and Robinson, Petry retrieved it and attempted to throw the grenade back in the direction of the Taliban.
He recalls that his immediate reaction was to “get it out of here, get it away from the guys and myself.” He recounts: “I reached over, leaned over to the right, grabbed [the grenade], and I threw it as hard as I could … and as soon as I opened my hand to let it go, it just exploded instantly. And [my] hand was completely severed off.” He also suffered many shrapnel wounds, but in the process he saved his two fellow Rangers from serous injury or death.
According to his Medal of Honor citation, “Staff Sergeant Petry’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service, and reflect great credit upon himself, 75th Ranger Regiment, and the United States Army.”
Amazingly, after recovering from his amputation and injuries, then-SFC Petry remained on active duty, reenlisting in 2010. He was medically retired four years later and in 2017 was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame at Fort Benning.
Leroy is president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society board – if you want to be a member of the society, the only qualification is that you have been awarded a Medal of Honor. In other words, it’s a rather exclusive group! He is very involved with the Society’s character education initiative, and, as part of that curriculum, recorded his advice to young people: “Look to your left and to your right.” Likewise, he is an advocate of the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center’s outstanding education initiatives.
Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Pro Deo et Libertate — 1776
Join us in prayer for our nation’s Military Patriots, Veterans and First Responders, and for their families. “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
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