A Joint Base Lewis-McChord Ranger who lost his right hand while protecting fellow soldiers from a live grenade will become the second living service member to earn a Medal of Honor for actions in Afghanistan, the White House announced Tuesday.
Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry, 31, will receive his medal from President Barack Obama at a White House ceremony July 12. He continues to serve at Lewis-McChord with a 75th Ranger Regiment headquarters unit.
“It’s very humbling to know that the guys thought that much of me and my actions that day, to nominate me for that,” Petry told an Army writer when he learned he’d been nominated for the medal.
Petry is not available for other interviews, and his regiment is not discussing his honor for now, a Ranger spokeswoman said.
Petry lost his hand and suffered shrapnel injuries during an operation in Paktya, Afghanistan, on May 26, 2008.
He was already wounded when an enemy fighter tossed a grenade into a chicken coop where he was taking cover with two other soldiers. He picked up the weapon, which exploded as he threw it and severed his hand.
His actions saved the lives of the soldiers who were with him, the Army says.
The White House cited Petry’s “conspicuous gallantry” in describing Obama’s decision to award him the medal.
Petry, a New Mexico native, will be the ninth service member to earn a Medal of Honor during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Seven of those were awarded posthumously.
Last year, Staff Sgt. Salvator Giunta became the first living, active-duty soldier to earn the military’s highest honor when Obama awarded him a Medal of Honor for his heroism in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.
Giunta’s actions were known to the public before he received his Medal of Honor because they were chronicled in “War,” a book by journalist Sebastian Junger.
Petry’s acts have so far have not received the same attention. Neither the Army nor the White House has released the commendation describing the incident that led to his honor.
A news release from the Army said Petry was serving with Lewis-McChord’s D Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at the time of his injury.
He was helping clear a building when he and Pfc. Lucas Robinson came under fire in a courtyard. One round pierced both of Petry’s legs; another hit Robinson in a side plate.
They ran to the chicken coop to shield themselves from enemy fire, and were joined by Sgt. Daniel Higgins. An enemy fighter threw a grenade at them, wounding Higgins and Robinson.
Another grenade followed, this one landing near Petry. He picked it up and threw it.
“If not for Staff Sergeant Petry’s actions, we would have been seriously wounded or killed,” Higgins later wrote, according to the Army.
Petry now serves with the 75th Ranger Regiment headquarters. His position calls on him to help track injured Rangers returning from the battlefield to their home stations.
Petry has deployed eight times in his Army career. He has received two Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart and three Army Commendation Medals.
He and his wife, Ashley, have four children, Brittany, Austin, Reagan and Landon.