Army Ranger Loses Hand In Act That Earned Him Medal of Honor

By Molly Manuszewski, DoD News

This blog is part of a weekly series called “Medal of Honor Monday,” in which we’ll highlight one of the nearly 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients who have earned the U.S. military’s highest medal for valor.

Today we honor an Army Ranger who was presented the Medal of Honor on July 12, 2011, for unselfishly risking his life to save his fellow Rangers – despite being under enemy fire and severely injured – an act that cost him his right hand.

Army Staff Sgt. Leroy Petry. Army photo

Staff Sgt. Leroy A. Petry was born in New Mexico in July 1979. He graduated from St. Catherine’s Indian High School. Not long after, Petry followed his childhood dream by enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1999, something he wanted to do since he was 7 years old.

After enlisting, Petry joined the 75th Ranger Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia. There, he completed the Basic Airborne Course and the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program and was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

Petry’s heroic story began on May 26, 2008, when he and his team were assigned a mission in Afghanistan’s Paktia Province. Petry, the senior noncommissioned officer, was supposed to go to platoon headquarters. However, he realized one of the assault squads needed some assistance with clearing their assigned building. Taking initiative, he informed the platoon leader that he was moving to the squad help them. Petry took fellow Ranger Pfc. Lucas Robinson with him to clear the outer courtyard.

Once they got there, the two crossed the area, and an enemy insurgent fired on them with an AK-47 from about 10 yards away. Petry was shot in both of his legs, and Robinson was hit in his side plate. Although severely wounded, Petry attempted to lead Robinson to safety by a chicken coop as the enemy continued to fire at them.

Petry reported to Sgt. Daniel Higgins that there had been enemy contact and that he and Robinson were wounded. Higgins, a team leader, then moved to the outer courtyard to help. Petry threw a grenade in the vicinity of the enemy position, which created a brief silence in enemy fire, so Higgins was able to tend to the two wounded soldiers.

While taking cover, enemy fighters began throwing grenades as fellow Rangers headed toward the area to assist. One landed right in front of Higgins and Robinson. So Petry, already wounded, picked up the grenade and threw it away from his fellow Rangers. However, as he was releasing the grenade, it detonated, destroying his right hand.

Medal of Honor recipient Army Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry describes the combat action of May 26, 2008, near Paktya, Afghanistan, in which he saved the lives of two fellow Rangers, during a press conference after he was inducted into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon, July 13, 2011. Petry lost his hand in the 2008 fight, but now uses a state-of-the-art prosthesis. DOD photo by R.D. Ward

Higgins later wrote in a statement, “If not for Staff Sgt. Petry’s actions, we would have been seriously wounded or killed.” It’s safe to say his gallantry would not go unnoticed.

President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to Petry in 2011.

Petry could have retired with honors. Instead, he chose to re-enlist, despite his continuing struggle with his battle wounds. He went on to become a liaison officer for the U.S. Special Operations Command Care Coalition’s Northwest Region, working as an advocate for wounded warriors, ill and injured special operators and their families. Throughout his career, he was deployed eight times – two supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom and six supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Petry retired as master sergeant in July 2014.

Petry selflessly risked his own life to save the lives of two Rangers with complete disregard for his personal safety. His actions exemplify the spirit of a true Army warrior and have brought great credit to the 75th Ranger Regiment.

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