Today, July 12, 2011, President Barack Obama will award Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry, with the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry. Petry will receive the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions during combat operations against an armed enemy in Paktya, Afghanistan, May 26, 2008. Petry now serves as part of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Ga. "It's very humbling to know that the guys thought that much of me and my actions that day, to nominate me for that," said Petry, on learning he had been nominated for the medal. At the time of his actions in Afghanistan, Petry was assigned to Company D, 2nd Bn., 75th Ranger Regiment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Petry's actions came as part of a rare daylight raid to capture a high-value target.
On the day of the actions that would earn Petry the Medal of Honor, he 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. Recognizing one of the assault squads needed assistance clearing their assigned building, Petry relayed to the platoon leader that he was moving to that squad to provide additional supervision and guidance during the clearance of the building. Once the residential portion of the building had been cleared, Petry took a fellow member of the assault squad, Pvt. 1st Class Lucas Robinson, to clear the outer courtyard. Petry knew that area had not been cleared during the initial clearance. Petry and Robinson, both Rangers, moved into an area of the compound that contained at least three enemy fighters who were prepared to engage friendly forces from opposite ends of the outer courtyard. The two Soldiers entered the courtyard. To their front was an opening followed by a chicken coop. As the two crossed the open area, an enemy insurgent fired on them. Petry was wounded by one round, which went through both of his legs. Robinson was also hit in his side plate by a separate round. While wounded and under enemy fire, Petry led Robinson to the cover of the chicken coop. The enemy continued to deliver fire at the two Soldiers. As the senior Soldier, Petry assessed the situation and reported that contact was made and that there were two wounded Rangers in the courtyard of the primary target building.
Upon hearing the report of two wounded Rangers, Sgt. Daniel Higgins, a team leader, moved to the outer courtyard. As Higgins was moving to Petry and Robinson's position, Petry threw a thermobaric grenade in the vicinity of the enemy position. Shortly after that grenade exploded -- which created a lull in the enemy fire -- Higgins arrived at the chicken coop and assessed the wounds of the two Soldiers. While Higgins evaluated their wounds, an insurgent threw a grenade over the chicken coop at the three Rangers. The grenade landed about 10 meters from the three Rangers, knocked them to the ground, and wounded Higgins and Robinson. Shortly after the grenade exploded, Staff Sgt. James Roberts and Spc. Christopher Gathercole entered the courtyard, and moved toward the chicken coop. With three Soldiers taking cover in the chicken coop, an enemy fighter threw another grenade at them. This time, the grenade landed just a few feet from Higgins and Robinson. 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 battlefield reports. As Petry released the grenade in the direction of the enemy, preventing the serious injury or death of Higgins and Robinson, it detonated and catastrophically amputated his right hand. With a clear mind, Petry assessed his wound and placed a tourniquet on his right arm. Once this was complete, he reported that he was still in contact with the enemy and that he had been wounded again.
After the blast that amputated Petry's hand, Roberts began to engage the enemy behind the chicken coop with small arms fire and a grenade. His actions suppressed the insurgents behind the chicken coop. Shortly after, another enemy on the east end of the courtyard began firing, fatally wounding Gathercole. Higgins and Robinson returned fire and killed the enemy. Moments later, Sgt. 1st Class Jerod Staidle, the platoon sergeant, and Spc. Gary Depriest, the platoon medic, arrived in the outer courtyard. After directing Depriest to treat Gathercole, Staidle moved to Petry' s position. Staidle and Higgins then assisted Petry as he moved to the casualty collection point. Higgins later wrote in a statement, "if not for Staff Sergeant Petry's actions, we would have been seriously wounded or killed." Petry is the ninth servicemember to have been named a recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Of prior recipients, all but Petry and Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta were awarded the honor posthumously.