The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the President in the name of Congress on members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States.
Members of all branches of the armed forces are eligible to receive the medal, and there are three versions; one for the Army, one for the Air Force, and one for the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. The Medal of Honor is bestowed upon an individual by the passing of a Joint Resolution in the Congress; and is then personally presented to the recipient or, in the case of posthumous awards, to next of kin, by the President of the United States, on behalf of the Congress, representing and recognizing the gratitude of the American people as a whole.
The Army, Navy/Marine Corps/Coast Guard, and Air Force medals
On 26 May 2008, Staff Sergeant Petry and his unit were on a mission in Paktia Province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to D Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, which was on a daylight raid to capture a high-value target from the Taliban. Petry was to locate himself with the platoon headquarters in the target building once it was secured. Once there, he was to serve as the senior noncommissioned officer at the site for the remainder of the operation. The operation involved about 70 Rangers, who encountered about 40 Taliban, 12 of them armed. Almost immediately after getting out of the helicopters that delivered the unit to the attack site, the Rangers came under strong fire. Petry provided additional supervision to an assaulting squad during the clearance of a building, and afterward he took Private First Class Lucas Robinson to clear the outer courtyard that had not yet been cleared.
Three Taliban fighters were in the courtyard, which had a chicken coop within it. The Taliban fired on Petry and Robinson; Petry was wounded by one round which went through both his legs, and Robinson was wounded, being hit on the armor plate protecting his side. Petry led Robinson to the cover of the chicken coop and reported the contact and their wounded condition. Petry threw a thermobaric grenade from cover. There at the chicken coop, they were joined by Sergeant Daniel Higgins, who assessed the wounds of the two soldiers.
A Taliban fighter threw a grenade at their position which landed 10 meters from them; it detonated, and the blast knocked the three soldiers to the ground, wounding Higgins, and further wounding Robinson. Shortly thereafter the three were joined by Staff Sergeant James Roberts and Specialist Christopher Gathercole. Another grenade was thrown by a Taliban fighter which landed a few feet from Higgins and Robinson. Petry, knowing the risk to his life, moved toward the grenade, picked it up, and attempted to throw it in the direction of the Taliban Petry later recalled his immediate reaction was “get it out of here, get it away from the guys and myself. And I reached over, leaned over to the right, grabbed it with my hand, and I threw it as hard as I could, what I thought was at the time. And as soon as I opened my hand to let it go, it just exploded instantly. And I came back, and the hand was completely severed off.” The detonation amputated his right hand, and sprayed his body with shrapnel. In throwing the grenade away, Petry likely saved the two other soldiers from serious injury or death.
Petry placed a tourniquet on his right arm. Roberts began to fire at the Taliban fighters, suppressing them in the courtyard. An additional fighter on the east end of the courtyard fired, fatally wounding Gathercole. Higgins and Robinson returned fire, killing that fighter. They were then joined by Sergeant First Class Jerod Staidle, the platoon sergeant, and Specialist Gary Depriest, a medic. Directing the medic to treat Gathercole, Petry was assisted by Staide and Higgins to the casualty collection point.
July 12, 2011
President Barack Obama presents Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry
the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry