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Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor

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05/04/2012

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A SPECIAL COMMEMORATIVE SECTION OF
THE SANTA FE NEW MEXICANWEDNESDAY, JULY 13, 2011
HTTP://SFNM.CO/MOHPETRY
 Army Ranger, awarded the
Medal
o
Honor
 Sgt. 1st Class
Leroy A. Petry
Son,father,husband,
Hero
INSIDE
The history of the Medal of Honor, plus a look at New Mexico’s 14 other recipients
 Editor’snote:InkeepingwithArmytraditionandbyhisownpreference,Leroy A.PetrydidnotgrantinterviewsuntilafterhereceivedhisMedalofHonor.This storyisbasedoninterviewswithhisfamilyandfriendsandreportsfromthemenwhoservedwithhim.
BY STACI MATLOCK
THE NEW MEXICAN
Santa Fe native’spath to the nation’shighest military honor
President Barack Obama shares a smile Tuesday with Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A. Petry after bestowing the Medal of Honor on the Santa Fe native.
BILL O’LEARY/WASHINGTON POST
 W 
hen Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A. Petry reachedfor a grenade in Afghanistan that day inMay 2008, he made a split-second decisionthat saved two fellow Army Rangers.He could have chosen otherwise.He was already severely wounded. He couldn’t haveknown how many seconds earlier the enemy combatanthad pulled the pin on the Russian-made grenade, orhow much time he had before it went off. He could haverolled to the left or to the right, away from the device.
He thought through all that and still made a decision toroll toward the grenade,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jerod Staidle,Petry’s platoon sergeant.Petry grabbed the grenade with his right hand, and ashe tossed it away from the other Rangers, it exploded.They were safe. Petry’s hand was gone below the wrist.But it was not this act alone that earned him the Medalof Honor he received Tuesday.It was also who he was before that moment and whathe did after it.
He went above and beyond. He did not think abouthimself,” said Staidle, who was at the battle where Petry’shand was blown off.
But I wasn’t surprised by his action, based on what I had seen the last few months.”
 Pleasesee
PETRY 
 , Page2
 
Atypicalkid
Inmanyways,Petry,now31,was justaregularkidgrowingupinSantaFe.Hecamefromalargefamily.Heplayedyouthfootball.Heroughhousedwithhisbrothersandhiscousins.HewasparticularlyclosetohiscousinStevenDrysdale.Whenthetwofought,theyreallywentatit.Butinvariably,theymadeup.
Oncedur-ingaYAFL(YoungAmericanFootballLeague)game,theybothgrabbedtheballatthesametime,saidLeroyPetry’smother,LorellaTapia.
Theywerepunchingandkickingeachother.Thentheybothjuststartedlaughing.The cousins both attended St.Catherine Indian School. They loveddouble-meat, double-cheese, double-green-chile hamburgers from Blake’sLotaburger. They played basketball.Petry was in the last graduatingclass from the school before it closedin 1998. He credited the school’snuns with helping him become moreresponsible and pull his grades up.The nuns were so impressed by hisefforts that they nominated him for aNew Mexico Bootstrap Award, hon-oring students who persevere overpersonal challenges. With A’s in mathand science,
now I can be noticedfor something good instead of people going ‘there goes that kid thatdropped out,’ ” read his biography inthe award announcement.In other ways, Leroy Petry demon-strated early on some traits a personneeds to make a split-second, life-or-death decision.
Thinkingofothers
Petry’s family members say he began trying to take care of otherswhen he was still a boy.His mom said she didn’t have toask him to help around the house. He just did it.
He would pull weeds forme outside and then want to comeinside and cook,” Tapia said.She recalled a cold day whenthe family was helping Larry Petry,Leroy’s dad, hang a sign. She hadmade sure her sons had their coats, but she had forgotten to wear one.Shivering, she was handing up toolsto her husband. Little Leroy, no olderthan 8 or 9, tried to persuade herto take his coat. She kept refusing.Finally, he pulled his shirt up in the bitter cold and told her to at leastwarm her hands on his stomach.
Hiseyes kind of blinked when I finallydid it, but, when I asked if it was cold,he said no,” Tapia said, smiling at thememory.
He wasn’t going to admit itwas freezing. That’s just the way he’salways been.”His paternal grandmother, BerthaPetry, said that as her grandsongrew older, he was always fixingthings for her without being asked.
He would find out something was broken, and he would tell me he wascoming to fix it,” she said.Even with his hand gone, he hasn’tchanged.
His wife, Ashley, called totell me one day how much she appre-ciates that he still fixes things andlikes to cook,” Tapia said.Tapia is grateful to Ashley Petryfor standing by her son after hisinjury.Tom Marquez, who attended St.Catherine’s with Leroy Petry and washis roommate for a year at New Mex-icoHighlandsUniversity,said,
Ifyouneeded help, he was there. He didn’task for anything in return. Whenhe sees something that needs to bedone, he’s going to do it, whether ittakes his life or not.”
Settinganexample
Leroy Petry’s parents both workedwhile he was growing up, and hisfather was a dedicated basketballcoach. Leroy and his two older broth-ers, Larry Armando, now 33, andLloyd, 32, were often latchkey kids.Larry A. Petry admits he was hardon his younger brother.
I wouldmake him fight other kids or threatento beat him up,” he said.
I feel badabout that now.”But his parents’ hard work and his brother’s toughness toward him mayhave been one more step in helpingLeroy Petry prepare to become anArmy Ranger.He was barely a teenager whenhis younger brothers, Lyndon andLincoln, were born. His parents laterdivorced, and Leroy enlisted in theArmy a year after high school.The experience changed him, hisyounger brothers said. From the brother who scared them with rideson his dirt bike and nighttime storiesabout La Llorona, he became thesoldier who chased Lincoln, now 17,around the house to cut off the boy’s long hair.He hated onions before he wentthrough Ranger training. Afterward,on a visit home, his mom forgot andmade enchiladas with onions.
Hetold me, ‘Don’t worry. I’ve eatenleaves. I’ve eaten bugs. If I can eatthat, I can eat anything,’ ” Tapia said.Other tastes changed.
Before itwas reggae and hip-hop and drivinghis truck,” said Lyndon Petry, now 18.
Now it’s country music, all the time,and the military and family.”His family says his marriage toAshley, raising her three children— Austin,Brittany and Reagan — as his own,and the birth of their son, Landon,now 7, all contributed to his growthas a family man.
He has an incredible respect forlife now with what happenedto him,”his brother Larry A. Petry said.Out of respect for Leroy Petry, the brothers planned to have haircutsand shave before attending the cer-emony in Washington, D.C.
Ignoringpain
Leroy Petry’s ability to set asidehurt is another trait that helped himthat May day in Afghanistan.
The thing about Leroy is he couldtake pain — major, major pain,” LarryA. Petry said.The family has many stories aboutLeroy Petry’s ability to keep goingafter he’s injured. Once, his fingerwas smashed between his bicyclechain and the flywheel for severalhours because he and his momcouldn’t get it free. His mom fed himlunch there, and he waited patientlyuntil his dad came home and helpedrelease his finger.On another occasion, Leroy Petrywas riding his dirt bike and hit a wirestrung across the path. He flippedoff of the bike and broke a leg whenhe landed. He was a couple of milesfrom home. When his family foundhim, he had crawled a good portionof the way back, dragging his leg.
ContinuedfromPage1
2
MEDAL OF HONOR Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Ashley Petry watches her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A. Petry, re-enlist in the Army indefinitely in May 2010. Petry is assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Wash., where hehelps wounded soldiers return to civilian life.
COURTESY PHOTOS
ABOVE: Young Leroy growingup in Santa Fe.
LEROYA.PETR
 Son,Father,Husband,Hero
RIGHT: The Petry familyChristmas card after Leroyreturned from Afghanistan.LeroyPetrywasinthelastgraduat-ingclassfromSt.CatherineIndianSchoolbeforeitclosedin1998.
 
helicoptersandsurroundthecom-pound,”hesaid.Staidleledonegroupofmenintoclearthefirstofthreebuildings.Petryfoundthebestentryintoasecondbuildingthroughabreakina6-foot-tallwallandfollowedthemenin.
Hedidn’tneedtodoit,Staidlesaid.
Hejustsawtheyneededhelpandwentin.Petrywastheseniornoncommis-sionedofficerwiththegroup.Theyclearedthebuilding,meetingnoresistance.Petry,withPvt.1stClassLucasRobinson,ranacrosstheyardtocheckachickencoop.Theypassednearanotherbreakinawall,and bothwereshotbyenemycombat-ants,Staidlesaid.Onebulletwentthroughtheupperthighsofbothof Petry’slegs.TheotherroundhitRob-insoninhissidearmorplate.Staidle,stillfocusedonhiswork,heardPetrysayhewasgoingto
fragout,”meaningtossagrenadeatthecombatants.HeneverheardPetrysayhewaswounded.Anotherteamleader,Sgt.Dan-ielHiggins,workedhiswayovertoPetryandRobinson.Whilehewasexaminingtheirwounds,aninsurgentthrewagrenadeoverthechickencoop,anditexplodedseveralmetersaway,accordingtomilitaryreports.HigginsandRobinsonwerewoundedbyshrapnel.AstwoothersoldiersStaffSgt.JamesRobertsandSpc.Christopher
Gator”Gath-ercole—triedtoreachthethreewoundedRangers,theenemythrewasecondgrenadeoverthechickencoop.ItrolledwithinfeetofHigginsandRobinson.Petrymanagedtograbthegre-nade,butitexplodedashetosseditaway.Thefirefightcontinued,andGath-ercolewasbadlywounded.
ThenextcallIheardwasthatPetryhadhishandblownoff,”Staidlesaid.
Ithoughtthegrenadehetossedhadmalfunctioned.Leroycalledmepersonallyontheradioandsaid,‘Myhandisgone.’Hewasverymatterof factandcalm.Hewasn’tfreakingout.Igrabbedmymedicandacoupleof otherguys,andweran(tohelp).Robinsonwasdraggingabadly bleedingGathercoletosafety.Gath-ercolelaterdiedfromhisinjuries.StaidlesawPetrysittingwithhis backproppedupagainstthechickencoop.
IaskedifhewasOK.Hesaidyes.Hewasputtingatourniquetaroundhiswristandthentoldmehewouldneedhelpbecausehehad beenshotthroughbothlegs.Onlyafterthefirefightwasfinallyover,andthefourwoundedRangerswerereceivingcare,didStaidleover-hearHigginstellPetrythathehadsavedtheirlives.Petrycontinueddirectingthemenwhowereputtingtourniquetsonhislegsandtoldtheothermentostopstandingaround.
Hewascalmtheentiretime,”Staidlesaid.
Ithinkthereasonthemenstayedsocalmis becausehewascalm.Staidlesaidhe’sseenafewfire-fights.
Thatwastheworst,hesaid.HethinksPetry’supbringing,personalityandmilitarytrainingallcametogetherinthatmoment.
Theaftermath
BackintheU.S.,PetrywassenttoBrookeArmyMedicalCenterinTexastorecoverandrehabilitate.Hisfather,LarryPetry,stepmother,RosePetry,hismomandhisbrotherLloydallcametostaywithhim.Thedoctorshadperformedasec-ondsurgerytoremoveabitmoreofhiswristboneandcreateabetterseatforaprostheticarm.Thescarsonbothlegsareseveralincheslong.Herefusedmorphine.HewantedchickensandwichesfromWendy’sandsoyvanillachailattesfromStar- bucks.Petry’shumorremainedintact.Whenhehadhealedenoughtogoouttoarestaurantwithhisfamily,hehadawomanmakehimabigpink  balloonhandtotieonhisstub.
Hewentaroundtherestauranthigh-fiv-ingeveryone,LloydPetryrecalled.Hedidn’tletthemissinghandslowhimdown.
Healwaysusedtosay,‘Getbusylivingorgetbusydying,Staidlesaid.
Hegotbusyliving.”Withinafewmonths,hewaswater-skiingwithhisbrothersatAbiquiúLake.
Hewasabetterwaterskierthanallofus,hisbrotherLarrysaid.Helearnedtoswingagolfclubwithhislefthand.Hestillgoeshunt-ingandridesall-terrainvehicles.Petryre-enlistedindefinitelyandnowservesasamilitaryliaisonforwoundedservicemenandtheirfami-liesthroughtheU.S.SpecialOpera-tionsCommandCareCoalitionat JointBaseLewis-McChord.ThemenwhoselivesLeroyPetrysavedhavemadetheirownmark.
RobinsonandWigginshavegoneontodogreatthings,Staidlesaid.
Sgt.WigginsbecameoneofthebestsquadleadersI’veseen.Hemadeasignificantimpactonthatplatoon.He’ssincelefttheArmyandwantsto becomeaschoolteacher.He’llprob-ablybeoneofthoseteachersthatstudentsdon’tforget.
NoneofthatwouldhavebeenpossiblehadLeroynotpickedupthatgrenade.”
ContactStaciMatlockat986-3055or  smatlock@sfnewmexican.com.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011 MEDAL OF HONOR
3
Leroy during his confirmation in Santa Fe.Medal of Honor recipient Leroy A. Petry, 31, in red, is one of five boysborn to Larry Petry and Lorella Tapia. His brothers, from left, are Lloyd,32, Lincoln, 17, Lyndon, 18, and Larry Armando, 33.
COURTESY LUCAS PEERMAN
Petry and his son, Landon. Petry’s brother, Lyndon, said before Leroy’sservice with the Rangers, ‘it was reggae and hip-hop and driving histruck. Now it’s country music, all the time, and the military and family.’
 
Petry has served with the ArmyRangers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
LEROYA.PETR
 Son,Father,Husband,Hero
ABOVE:Fromleft,wifeAshley,herchildren,Reagan,AustinandBrit-tany,whoLeroyPetryraisesashisown,andtheirchildtogether,Landon,7,poseforaportraitwithLeroyandthefamilydog.
Thatabilitytoendurepainhelpedhimstaycalmandawareas,yearslater,hewrappedatourniquetaroundthebloodystumponhisrightarmandkeptcommunicatingwithotherRangersuntilthemenweresafe.
BecomingaRanger
Petryandhiscousin,Drysdale, bothenlistedandpassedtherigoroustrainingrequiredtobecomeArmyRangers.Bothwereassignedtothe75thRangerBattalion.Drysdale becameaBlackHawkhelicopterpilot.Leroybecameagrenadier,squadautomaticrifleman,fireteamleader,squadleaderandweaponssquadleaderduringseveraltoursof dutyinIraqandAfghanistan.Ononeofhisearlydeploymentsin2002,Petrywrotetohismotheratleastonceamonth.
TellMando(his brother,Larry)thankyouforthepack-ageofbeefjerkyandstuff.Themailyouallsendhelpsboostmymorale.Otherfamilymemberssenthimpiñonnuts,redandgreenchilesandhomemadeapplebutter.Hismomsenthimcomics.Inanotherletter,hesenthismominstructionsonhowtousehisATMcardandpre-writtencheckstopayhisbills.
Pleasetakesomemoneyanddosomethingwiththeboysor buythemsomeshoesorclothes,”hewrote.
...ImissyouallverymuchandIshouldbehomeformybirth-dayifthingsgoright.Telleveryonetosayaprayerforme.”StaidlebecamePetry’splatoonser-geantin2007.
Rightoffthebat,Isawhewasanextremelyhardworkerandveryselfless,”Staidlesaid.
Hewasmygo-toguy.”StaidleandPetrywereinchargeof formingafullyfunctioningplatooninonlysixweeks.Petrywastheleaderofanine-manweaponssquad,oneoffoursquadsintheplatoon.
Wescrapedtogetherabunchofguys,andtheytolduswewereDeltacom-pany.Weputinalotoflatenightspullingittogether,”Staidlesaid.
Noneofthemenkneweachother.Wewerestartingfromscratch.”StaidlewouldgivePetryalistof thingstodo.
I’dthinkitwouldtakeallday,andanhourlaterhe’dbeback withsweatrunningdownhisface,anditwouldallbedone,Staidlesaid.
Themannerinwhichhegotthingsdone,healwaysputthemenandhismissionbeforehisownper-sonalneeds.ByFebruary2008,theplatoonwasacertifiedRangerriflecom-panybasedoutofJointBaseLewis-McChordinWashingtonstate.InApril2008,theyweredeployedtothePaktiaprovinceofAfghanistan.Andinadustycompoundofbuild-ingsMay26,themenfoundthem-selvesinthefirestormthatchangedtheirlives.
Thebattle
Itwasadaylighthelicopterraidwithanaimofflushingoutaknownterrorist,Staidlesaid.Theentirenewplatoon,pluspartofanother,wereinvolved.
Ourplanwastolandthree
RIGHT: YoungLeroy, right, withhis father, LarryPetry, and two ofhis brothers.
COURTESY PHOTOS
Petry with his mother, LorellaTapia, during her visit to Washing-ton state three years ago.
MILITARYFAMIL
Both sides of Sgt. 1st ClassLeroy Petry’s family have servedin the military. Below are theirnames, the military branch theyserved in, the war, if any, andtheir relation to Petry.
Steven Drysdale
, Army,Afghanistan/Iraq, cousin
Antonio Ochova
, Air Force,Vietnam, uncle
Leo Albert Petry
, Air Force,Korea, grandfather
Lee Petry
, Navy, uncle
Lynn Petry
, Navy, uncle
Lloyd Petry
, Army, brother
Steven Tapia
, Army, uncle
Nicolas Tapia
, Army Airborne,cousin

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The story of Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A Petry, a recent recipient of the Medal of Honor.
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The story of Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A Petry, a recent recipient of the Medal of Honor.
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The story of Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A Petry, a recent recipient of the Medal of Honor.
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