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Sgt. 1st Class
Leroy A. Petry
Army Ranger, awarded the
Medal of 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
Editor’s note: In keeping with Army tradition and by his own preference, Leroy A. Petry did not grant interviews until after he received his Medal of Honor. This story is based on interviews with his family and friends and reports from the men who served with him.
hen Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A. Petry reached for a grenade in Afghanistan that day in May 2008, he made a split-second decision that saved two fellow Army Rangers. He could have chosen otherwise. He was already severely wounded. He couldn’t have known how many seconds earlier the enemy combatant had pulled the pin on the Russian-made grenade, or how much time he had before it went off. He could have rolled to the left or to the right, away from the device. “He thought through all that and still made a decision to roll toward the grenade,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jerod Staidle, Petry’s platoon sergeant. Petry grabbed the grenade with his right hand, and as he 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 Medal of Honor he received Tuesday. It was also who he was before that moment and what he did after it. “He went above and beyond. He did not think about himself,” said Staidle, who was at the battle where Petry’s hand was blown off. “But I wasn’t surprised by his action, based on what I had seen the last few months.”
Please see PETRY, Page 2
Son, father, husband,
Santa Fe native’s path to the nation’s highest military honor
BY STACI MATLOCK THE NEW MEXICAN
The history of the Medal of Honor, plus a look at New Mexico’s 14 other recipients
W E D N E S D AY, J U LY 1 3 , 2 0 1 1
H T T P : // S F N M . C O / M O H P E T R Y
MEDAL OF HONOR Wednesday, July 13, 2011
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LEROY A. PETRY Son, Father, Husband, Hero
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 he helps wounded soldiers return to civilian life. COURTESY PHOTOS
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A typical kid
In many ways, Petry, now 31, was just a regular kid growing up in Santa Fe. He came from a large family. He played youth football. He roughhoused with his brothers and his cousins. He was particularly close to his cousin Steven Drysdale. When the two fought, they really went at it. But invariably, they made up. “Once during a YAFL (Young American Football League) game, they both grabbed the ball at the same time,” said Leroy Petry’s mother, Lorella Tapia. “They were punching and kicking each other. Then they both just started laughing.” The cousins both attended St. Catherine Indian School. They loved double-meat, double-cheese, doublegreen-chile hamburgers from Blake’s Lotaburger. They played basketball. Petry was in the last graduating class from the school before it closed in 1998. He credited the school’s nuns with helping him become more responsible and pull his grades up. The nuns were so impressed by his efforts that they nominated him for a New Mexico Bootstrap Award, honoring students who persevere over personal challenges. With A’s in math and science, “now I can be noticed for something good instead of people going ‘there goes that kid that dropped out,’ ” read his biography in the award announcement. In other ways, Leroy Petry demonstrated early on some traits a person needs to make a split-second, life-ordeath decision.
Thinking of others
Petry’s family members say he began trying to take care of others when he was still a boy. His mom said she didn’t have to ask him to help around the house. He just did it. “He would pull weeds for me outside and then want to come inside and cook,” Tapia said. She recalled a cold day when the family was helping Larry Petry, Leroy’s dad, hang a sign. She had made sure her sons had their coats, but she had forgotten to wear one. Shivering, she was handing up tools to her husband. Little Leroy, no older than 8 or 9, tried to persuade her to take his coat. She kept refusing. Finally, he pulled his shirt up in the bitter cold and told her to at least warm her hands on his stomach. “His eyes kind of blinked when I finally did it, but, when I asked if it was cold, he said no,” Tapia said, smiling at the memory. “He wasn’t going to admit it was freezing. That’s just the way he’s always been.” His paternal grandmother, Bertha Petry, said that as her grandson grew older, he was always fixing things for her without being asked. “He would find out something was broken, and he would tell me he was coming to fix it,” she said. Even with his hand gone, he hasn’t changed. “His wife, Ashley, called to tell me one day how much she appreciates that he still fixes things and likes to cook,” Tapia said. Tapia is grateful to Ashley Petry for standing by her son after his injury.
Tom Marquez, who attended St. Catherine’s with Leroy Petry and was his roommate for a year at New Mexico Highlands University, said, “If you needed help, he was there. He didn’t ask for anything in return. When he sees something that needs to be done, he’s going to do it, whether it takes his life or not.”
Setting an example
Leroy Petry’s parents both worked while he was growing up, and his father was a dedicated basketball coach. Leroy and his two older brothers, Larry Armando, now 33, and Lloyd, 32, were often latchkey kids. Larry A. Petry admits he was hard on his younger brother. “I would make him fight other kids or threaten to beat him up,” he said. “I feel bad about that now.” But his parents’ hard work and his brother’s toughness toward him may have been one more step in helping Leroy Petry prepare to become an Army Ranger. He was barely a teenager when his younger brothers, Lyndon and Lincoln, were born. His parents later divorced, and Leroy enlisted in the Army a year after high school. The experience changed him, his younger brothers said. From the brother who scared them with rides on his dirt bike and nighttime stories about La Llorona, he became the soldier who chased Lincoln, now 17, around the house to cut off the
Brittany and Reagan — as his own, and the birth of their son, Landon, now 7, all contributed to his growth as a family man. “He has an incredible respect for life now with what happened to him,” his brother Larry A. Petry said. Out of respect for Leroy Petry, the brothers planned to have haircuts and shave before attending the ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Leroy Petry’s ability to set aside hurt is another trait that helped him that May day in Afghanistan. “The thing about Leroy is he could take pain — major, major pain,” Larry A. Petry said. The family has many stories about Leroy Petry’s ability to keep going after he’s injured. Once, his finger was smashed between his bicycle chain and the flywheel for several hours because he and his mom couldn’t get it free. His mom fed him lunch there, and he waited patiently until his dad came home and helped release his finger. On another occasion, Leroy Petry was riding his dirt bike and hit a wire strung across the path. He flipped off of the bike and broke a leg when he landed. He was a couple of miles from home. When his family found him, he had crawled a good portion of the way back, dragging his leg.
Leroy Petry was in the last graduating class from St. Catherine Indian School before it closed in 1998.
boy’s long hair. He hated onions before he went through Ranger training. Afterward, on a visit home, his mom forgot and made enchiladas with onions. “He told me, ‘Don’t worry. I’ve eaten leaves. I’ve eaten bugs. If I can eat that, I can eat anything,’ ” Tapia said. Other tastes changed. “Before it was reggae and hip-hop and driving his truck,” said Lyndon Petry, now 18. “Now it’s country music, all the time, and the military and family.” His family says his marriage to Ashley, raising her three children — Austin,
ABOVE: Young Leroy growing up in Santa Fe.
RIGHT: The Petry family Christmas card after Leroy returned from Afghanistan.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011 MEDAL OF HONOR
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LEROY A. PETRY Son, Father, Husband, Hero
Both sides of Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry’s family have served in the military. Below are their names, the military branch they served in, the war, if any, and their 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
That ability to endure pain helped him stay calm and aware as, years later, he wrapped a tourniquet around the bloody stump on his right arm and kept communicating with other Rangers until the men were safe.
Becoming a Ranger
Petry and his cousin, Drysdale, both enlisted and passed the rigorous training required to become Army Rangers. Both were assigned to the 75th Ranger Battalion. Drysdale became a Black Hawk helicopter pilot. Leroy became a grenadier, squad automatic rifleman, fire team leader, squad leader and weapons squad leader during several tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. On one of his early deployments in 2002, Petry wrote to his mother at least once a month. “Tell Mando (his brother, Larry) thank you for the package of beef jerky and stuff. The mail you all send helps boost my morale.” Other family members sent him piñon nuts, red and green chiles and homemade apple butter. His mom sent him comics. In another letter, he sent his mom instructions on how to use his ATM card and pre-written checks to pay his bills. “Please take some money and do something with the boys or buy them some shoes or clothes,” he wrote. “ ... I miss you all very much and I should be home for my birthday if things go right. Tell everyone to say a prayer for me.” Staidle became Petry’s platoon sergeant in 2007. “Right off the bat, I saw he was an extremely hard worker and very selfless,” Staidle said. “He was my go-to guy.” Staidle and Petry were in charge of forming a fully functioning platoon in only six weeks. Petry was the leader of a nine-man weapons squad, one of four squads in the platoon. “We scraped together a bunch of guys, and they told us we were Delta company. We put in a lot of late nights pulling it together,” Staidle said. “None of the men knew each other. We were starting from scratch.” Staidle would give Petry a list of things to do. “I’d think it would take all day, and an hour later he’d be back with sweat running down his face, and it would all be done,” Staidle said. “The manner in which he got things done, he always put the men and his mission before his own personal needs.” By February 2008, the platoon was a certified Ranger rifle company based out of Joint Base LewisMcChord in Washington state. In April 2008, they were deployed to the Paktia province of Afghanistan. And in a dusty compound of buildings May 26, the men found themselves in the firestorm that changed their lives.
ABOVE: From left, wife Ashley, her children, Reagan, Austin and Brittany, who Leroy Petry raises as his own, and their child together, Landon, 7, pose for a portrait with Leroy and the family dog. RIGHT: Young Leroy, right, with his father, Larry Petry, and two of his brothers.
Leroy during his confirmation in Santa Fe.
Petry with his mother, Lorella Tapia, during her visit to Washington state three years ago.
Petry has served with the Army Rangers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It was a daylight helicopter raid with an aim of flushing out a known terrorist, Staidle said. The entire new platoon, plus part of another, were involved. “Our plan was to land three
helicopters and surround the compound,” he said. Staidle led one group of men in to clear the first of three buildings. Petry found the best entry into a second building through a break in a 6-foot-tall wall and followed the men in. “He didn’t need to do it,” Staidle said. “He just saw they needed help and went in.” Petry was the senior noncommissioned officer with the group. They cleared the building, meeting no resistance. Petry, with Pvt. 1st Class Lucas Robinson, ran across the yard to check a chicken coop. They passed near another break in a wall, and both were shot by enemy combatants, Staidle said. One bullet went
through the upper thighs of both of Petry’s legs. The other round hit Robinson in his side armor plate. Staidle, still focused on his work, heard Petry say he was going to “frag out,” meaning toss a grenade at the combatants. He never heard Petry say he was wounded. Another team leader, Sgt. Daniel Higgins, worked his way over to Petry and Robinson. While he was examining their wounds, an insurgent threw a grenade over the chicken coop, and it exploded several meters away, according to military reports. Higgins and Robinson were wounded by shrapnel. As two other soldiers — Staff Sgt. James Roberts and Spc. Christopher “Gator” Gathercole — tried to reach the three wounded Rangers, the enemy threw a second grenade over the chicken coop. It rolled within feet of Higgins and Robinson.
Petry managed to grab the grenade, but it exploded as he tossed it away. The firefight continued, and Gathercole was badly wounded. “The next call I heard was that Petry had his hand blown off,” Staidle said. “I thought the grenade he tossed had malfunctioned. Leroy called me personally on the radio and said, ‘My hand is gone.’ He was very matter of fact and calm. He wasn’t freaking out. I grabbed my medic and a couple of other guys, and we ran (to help).” Robinson was dragging a badly bleeding Gathercole to safety. Gathercole later died from his injuries. Staidle saw Petry sitting with his back propped up against the chicken coop. “I asked if he was OK. He said yes. He was putting a tourniquet around his wrist and then told me he would need help because he had been shot through both legs.” Only after the firefight was finally over, and the four wounded Rangers were receiving care, did Staidle overhear Higgins tell Petry that he had saved their lives. Petry continued directing the men who were putting tourniquets on his legs and told the other men to stop standing around. “He was calm the entire time,” Staidle said. “I think the reason the men stayed so calm is because he was calm.”
Staidle said he’s seen a few firefights. “That was the worst,” he said. He thinks Petry’s upbringing, personality and military training all came together in that moment.
Back in the U.S., Petry was sent to Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas to recover and rehabilitate. His father, Larry Petry, stepmother, Rose Petry, his mom and his brother Lloyd all came to stay with him. The doctors had performed a second surgery to remove a bit more of his wrist bone and create a better seat for a prosthetic arm. The scars on both legs are several inches long. He refused morphine. He wanted chicken sandwiches from Wendy’s and soy vanilla chai lattes from Starbucks. Petry’s humor remained intact. When he had healed enough to go out to a restaurant with his family, he had a woman make him a big pink balloon hand to tie on his stub. “He went around the restaurant high-fiving everyone,” Lloyd Petry recalled. He didn’t let the missing hand slow him down. “He always used to say, ‘Get busy living or get busy dying,’ ” Staidle said. “He got busy living.” Within a few months, he was waterskiing with his brothers at Abiquiú Lake. “He was a better water skier than all of us,” his brother Larry said. He learned to swing a golf club with his left hand. He still goes hunting and rides all-terrain vehicles. Petry re-enlisted indefinitely and now serves as a military liaison for wounded servicemen and their families through the U.S. Special Operations Command Care Coalition at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The men whose lives Leroy Petry saved have made their own mark. “Robinson and Wiggins have gone on to do great things,” Staidle said. “Sgt. Wiggins became one of the best squad leaders I’ve seen. He made a significant impact on that platoon. He’s since left the Army and wants to become a schoolteacher. He’ll probably be one of those teachers that students don’t forget. “None of that would have been possible had Leroy not picked up that grenade.” Contact Staci Matlock at 986-3055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Medal of Honor recipient Leroy A. Petry, 31, in red, is one of five boys born 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’s service with the Rangers, ‘it was reggae and hip-hop and driving his truck. Now it’s country music, all the time, and the military and family.’
4 MEDAL OF HONOR Wednesday, July 13, 13, 2011 D-4 THE NEW MEXICAN Wednesday, July2011
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LEROY A. PETRY Son, Father, Husband, Hero
Army Rangers: Leading the way
The New Mexican
By Staci Matlock
Before Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A. Petry engaged in the battle that earned him the nation’s highest military honor, he had proven himself as an Army Ranger, a member of one of the most elite fighting forces in the United States. The road to becoming an Army Ranger is an arduous one. Army Rangers are part of the military’s special operations. A light-infantry force formed during World War II and capable of deploying anywhere in the world with 18 hours’ notice, their specialty involves close combat missions in which they often come under direct fire while recovering people and special equipment. Their motto is, “Rangers Lead the Way.” Men (women are not allowed) age 18 and older, without criminal records, who have no physical limitation and score high on both physical training and general technical tests can apply to be a Ranger. They have to be able to obtain a secret government clearance. Rangers complete nine weeks of basic combat training and advanced training before they are sent through Army Airborne School. The threeweek program teaches soldiers to parachute from airplanes, unassisted on the final jumps. From airborne training, Ranger trainees attend a four-week Ranger Indoctrination Program in Fort Benning, Ga. The school includes daily physical training, map reading, airborne operations practice, day and night land navigation, knots, combat water survival test and 8- to 10-mile road marches. If a soldier passes all the tests, he still isn’t a Ranger. Next comes Ranger School. The two-month program is broken into “crawl, walk and run” sections, where students “train to exhaustion, pushing the limits of their minds and bodies,” according to the Ranger website. The 20-day “crawl” period is devoted to hard-core physical training. The “walk” phase over 21 days teaches combat patrol techniques and preparing missions in mountains. The final “run” phase teaches soldiers to perform on extended patrol missions in a swamp. The candidates learn to lead small groups of men on air-assault, small-boat and ship-toshore patrols. “You must be capable of operating effectively under conditions of extreme mental and physical stress,” according to the description of the training. “Those who complete the testing and training earn the tan beret and the Ranger scroll and are then assigned to one of the Ranger battalions, while those soldiers who cannot are assigned to other units throughout the Army,” said Brian DeSantis, public affairs officer for the 75th Army Ranger Regiment. More information about the Army Rangers is available at www.benning. army.mil/tenant/75thRanger/.
During the Civil War, private Jacob Parrott was the first soldier to receive the Army Medal of Honor. COURTESY PHOTOS
Dr. Mary E. Walker, a contract civilian surgeon during the Civil War, is the only woman to receive the Medal of Honor.
Sgt. Jose Calugas of the Philippine Scouts received a Medal of Honor for actions during World War II.
The highest military honor
Medal of Honor holds special place in American history
The New Mexican
By Staci Matlock
he Medal of Honor has been awarded to servicemen since the Civil War, recognizing soldiers, Marines, airmen, sailors and Coast Guardsmen who risked their lives with “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity” above and beyond the call of duty. It is the highest military honor awarded. Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A. Petry, a Santa Fe native, became the 3,455th serviceman to receive the nation’s highest military honor. Congress awards the medal, and the president bestows it on recipients. The Army and the Air Force each have a version of the medal. A third version is for the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. Nominations for the military honor are intensely scrutinized, and the process can take 18 months or longer. Recommendations for the medal must be made within two years from the time of the action for which a serviceman is nominated. If a recommendation is outside that time, it must be made by a member of Congress. The nomination is vetted and a recommendation must be approved by several different levels of the military before final approval by the president.
caring for wounded soldiers “to the detriment of her own health.” She was later captured by the Confederates and held as a prisoner of war for four months. Walker’s medal was rescinded, along with those of other civilians, in 1917. She refused to give up the medal, and her family lobbied for her name to be returned to the honor roll. President Jimmy Carter restored her name to the roll in 1977.
Protecting the honor
Beginning in 2006, the Medal of Honor became the only military service decoration with special protection to prevent it from being imitated or sold. But the Stolen Valor Act was found unconstitutional by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals as an infringement on freedom of speech. The Supreme Court might take up the case. The FBI regularly investigates claims of false Medal of Honor use. In 1996, H.L.I. Lordship Industries, a company that had produced the Medal of Honor, was fined $80,000 for selling 300 fake ones. Florida resident Jackie Stern was convicted that same year of wearing a Medal of Honor to which he was not entitled. The federal judge sentenced him to write a personal letter of apology to the 171 living Medal of Honor recipients.
The three versions of the Medal of Honor, from left, for the Army, Air Force, and the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
During the Civil War, private Jacob Parrott was the first soldier to receive the Army Medal of Honor, as one of 22 men who made it through 200 miles of Confederate territory to capture a railroad train in Big Shanty, Ga. A total of 19 of servicemen were awarded two Medals of Honor, including Thomas Custer, younger brother of Gen. George Armstrong
Custer. Thomas Custer was awarded the medal twice for actions during the Civil War and later died with his brother at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Robert Augustus Sweeney was the only African American serviceman to twice receive the Medal of Honor. In 1881 and again in 1883, Sweeney jumped into the ocean to save fellow sailors. Petry will be the 44th serviceman of Hispanic descent to receive the Medal of Honor. He is the first member of the 75th Army Ranger Battalion to receive the honor. A total of 28 Native Americans have been awarded Medals of Honor for their military actions dating to active Army campaigns against the Apache in 1871. Although African American servicemen were awarded Medals of Honor in every conflict from the Civil War through World War I, no African American soldiers or sailors in World War II were recognized with a Medal of Honor until more than half a century after their service. The Army in 1993 ordered a study to determine whether racial bias played a part in who received the
honor. The report found there was bias and recommended 10 soldiers for the medal. Congress approved seven, and President Bill Clinton finally awarded the men their medals in 1997. Only one was still alive at the time. Congress directed the Army in 1996 to review all Asian American and Pacific Islands servicemen who were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in World War II “to determine whether any such award should be upgraded to the Medal of Honor.” A total of 22 were upgraded, and the medals were bestowed in 2000. Two other Asian Americans, Sgt. Jose Calugas of the Philippine Scouts and Pfc. Sadao Munemori of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, did receive Medals of Honor for actions during World War II prior to the review. “These quiet men, small in stature, performed unbelievable acts of bravery; they were tigers in battle,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki said at the time. Dr. Mary E. Walker, a contract civilian surgeon during the Civil War, is the only woman to receive the Medal of Honor. She was honored in 1865 for her work in the field and in hospitals
Privileges of the award
Other military personnel, regardless of rank, are encouraged to salute Medal of Honor recipients when they meet them. It is special recognition of the valor and courage indicated by the medal. Medal of Honor recipients are given special deals on air transportation, an increased military pension and a 10 percent increase in retirement pay. They receive a special Medal of Honor flag, along with the neck medal. Recipients are invited to future presidential inaugurations and inaugural balls.
Gallup Medal of Honor recipient welcomes Petry
Miyamura only other living native New Mexican honoree
The New Mexican
By Shaun Griswold
One of New Mexico’s Medal of Honor recipients has advice for the newest honoree. “It’s an obligation once you wear that medal to behave like a good American citizen. I wish Sgt. (Leroy A.) Petry all the luck in the world,” Hiroshi Miyamura said. “He’s going to be a representative of all the veterans of New Mexico.” Petry and Miyamura, 85, are the only living native New Mexicans to wear the Medal of Honor. Miyamura was born, raised and continues to live in Gallup. He was drafted into the Army at the end of World War II and served in a Japanese-American unit. He was recalled to active duty following the start of the Korean War. Miyamura was awarded the medal for his actions on April 25, 1951, near Taejon-ni, Korea. He was a corporal in the 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd
Medal of Honor recipient Hiroshi Miyamura of Gallup is congratulated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 27, 1953.
Infantry Division. “I was a machine-gun operator,” Miyamura said. “During that night I could see that our position was going to be overrun by the enemy. Instead of getting my men shot or killed, I told them to evacuate the area, and I covered the withdrawal.” His men found safety as Miyamura held off the advancing Chinese sol-
diers with artillery fire. “While they were leaving, I just fired and threw all the grenades that I could,” he said. “After they left, our own mortars started dropping phosphorous bombs on our position. That woke me up to the thought, ‘I’ve got to get out of here.’ ” Miyamura killed 10 Chinese soldiers with his bayonet as he moved down
the hill to another machine gun. He killed more than 50 enemy combatants during the battle, according to his Army citation. When his ammunition ran out, Miyamura tried to signal a friendly tank, but he was tangled in barbed wire and injured. He was soon captured and sent to a North Korean POW camp, where he was a prisoner of war for two years. “I didn’t want to think about what was happening,” he said. “I wanted to concentrate on raising a family once I got home. I think that’s what kept me going.” On Aug. 23, 1953, Miyamura was released to Freedom Village near Panmunjom. His Medal of Honor citation was kept secret because the Army feared he faced imminent danger for his actions. Miyamura was surprised when he heard the news. President Dwight D. Eisenhower pinned the medal to Miyamura during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 27, 1953. “I didn’t believe I should have got the Medal of Honor for that, I thought I was just doing my job,” he said. “I was in a state of shock, I couldn’t
believe that I was actually there to receive the Medal of Honor. It was really quite an experience for me and my family.” Miyamura went back to Gallup and fulfilled his wish to start a family and business. He owned a service station until his retirement and has four grandchildren and one great-grandchild. In 2007, Gallup McKinley County Schools named its new school, Miyamura High School, in honor of its local hero. Miyamura said Petry will have a number of obligations that come with his award, including appearances at the Medal of Honor Society, local and state events, military service event organizations and talks to schoolchildren. “I’m very proud to have him as a Medal of Honor recipient from New Mexico,” Miyamura said. “I’m sure glad that he’s going to be around for a long time to represent the veterans, because we have quite a few veterans throughout New Mexico, and this is one way to bring recognition.” Contact Shaun Griswold at 986-052 or email@example.com.
Wednesday, July July2011 THEMEDAL OF HONOR 5 Wednesday, 13, 13, 2011 NEW MEXICAN D-5
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LEROY A. PETRY Son, Father, Husband, Hero
n Tuesday, Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A. Petry became the 15th New Mexican awarded the Medal of Honor for distinguished and valorous service above the call of duty. Here are the other dozen recipients, with a brief description of the event for which they were nominated to receive the medal and the date of issue, according to the U.S. Army Center of Military History and the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
LT. ALEXANDER BONNYMAN JR.
U.S. Marines, World War II Oct. 28, 1946 Bonnyman enlisted with the Marines in New Mexico and became executive officer of the 2nd Battalion Shore Party, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division. During an assault on Japanese-held Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands on Nov. 20-22, 1943, U.S. troops were trapped by blistering fire from Japanese shore batteries. Again and again, Bonnyman organized and led the men across an open pier to the beach and later led them in organized attacks against the Japanese artillery sites. The next day he volunteered to crawl 40 yards ahead of the lines and laid demolition charges at the entrance of a Japanese stronghold. He then led an assault on the bastion, “flushing more than 100 of the enemy out.” Standing on the edge of the structure, he fought to keep the Japanese from retaking it and was finally killed. “By his dauntless fighting spirit, unrelenting aggressiveness and forceful leadership throughout 3 days of unremitting, violent battle, 1st Lt. Bonnyman had inspired his men to heroic effort,” according to the citation.
New Mexico’s past Medal of Honor recipients
In good company
ies of a machine-gun crew back down the hill. He was wounded a second time conducting the force to the line of departure and refused medical assistance until all his men, including casualties, had preceded him to the main lines. After his discharge, Murphy moved to New Mexico, and from 1974 until his retirement in 1997 he worked for the Veterans Administration as a counselor. He stayed on as a volunteer until 2005. Murphy died in a veterans nursing home in Pueblo in 2007 and is buried in the Santa Fe National Cemetery.
W.O. LOUIS R. ROCCO
U.S. Army, Vietnam Dec. 12, 1974 Rocco, an Albuquerque native, was serving with Advisory Team 162, U.S. Military Assistance Command in Katum on May 24, 1970. He was cited for helping a team evacuate eight critically wounded Vietnamese personnel. When enemy fire brought the rescue helicopter down, Rocco, despite a fractured wrist and hip, rescued three survivors and was severely burned by the wreckage. He carried each unconscious man across 20 meters of exposed terrain back to Army of the Republic of Vietnam territory. He helped administer first aid until he collapsed from his own injuries. “His unparalleled bravery in the face of enemy fire, his complete disregard for his own pain and injuries, and his performance were far above and beyond the call of duty,” the citation read.
PVT. 1ST CLASS ALEJANDRO RENTARIA RUIZ
U.S. Army, World War II June 14, 1946 Ruiz was nominated for his actions while in Okinawa with the 165th Infantry, 27th Infantry Division on April 28, 1945. Born in Loving, he was honored for helping his squad when it was pinned down under a surprise machine-gun fire and grenade attack from camouflaged enemy. Ruiz lunged to his feet, grabbed an automatic rifle and leaped through the grenades and rifle fire to the top of his troop’s position, firing on the enemy. He repeated the action until he could climb the top of the pillbox and fire into one opening after another, destroying the Japanese entrenched there. “His heroic conduct, in the face of overwhelming odds, saved the lives of many comrades,” according to the citation.
STAFF SGT. DREW D. DIX
U.S. Army, Vietnam Jan. 16, 1969 Dix was honored for voluntarily leading several missions into the city of Chau Phu to rescue civilians trapped by Viet Cong attacks on Jan. 31, 1968. The next day, Dix voluntarily assembled a 20-man team to clear the hotel, theater and adjacent buildings of the enemy. Dix was credited with actions that helped capture 20 enemy combatants and the rescue of 14 U.S. civilians. He became the first enlisted Green Beret to be awarded the Medal of Honor. He lives in Mimbres, N.M.
SPC. 4TH CLASS DANIEL FERNANDEZ
U.S. Army, Vietnam April 6, 1967 Albuquerque native Fernandez was honored for his actions on Feb. 18, 1966. His patrol was ambushed by the Viet Cong and driven back by automatic weapons fire. Fernandez and three other volunteers fought back through the firestorm to rescue a wounded soldier. As they were carrying him away, Fernandez saw a grenade tossed into their midst and threw himself on top of it to protect the other men. Fernandez died in the blast.
CAPT. ROBERT S. SCOTT
U.S. Army, World War II Oct. 14, 1944 Scott enlisted in Santa Fe and was assigned to the 172nd Infantry, 43rd Infantry Division. He was among the troops who fought enemy combatants for 27 days attempting to capture the Munda Air Strip at New Georgia in the Solomon Islands. On July 29, 1943, Scott pushed forward alone to within 75 yards of where the enemy held a critical hilltop and held the spot through an assault and threw grenades repeatedly until they fell back. His actions inspired other troops to charge forward and take the hill, allowing U.S. forces to capture the air strip four days later.
STAFF SGT. DELBERT O. JENNINGS
U.S. Army, Vietnam Sept. 19, 1968 Born in Silver City, Jennings entered the Army in 1966 in San Francisco. On Dec. 27, 1966, he was part of Company C, (1st Battalion, 12 Cavalry Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Division) defending an artillery position, when his unit came under heavy enemy attack. According to the citation, Jennings killed 16 enemy soldiers, then “aided the air-landing of reinforcements by throwing white phosphorous grenades on the landing zone despite dangerously silhouetting himself with the light.” After helping to fight off the final enemy assaults, he led a group of volunteers to an area where eight seriously wounded men lay, and “braving enemy sniper fire and ignoring the presence of booby traps in the area” helped save them.
Spc. 4th Class Daniel Fernandez, who was killed in the Vietnam War, is one of a handful of Medal of Honor recipients buried at Santa Fe National Cemetery. CLYDE MUELLER/THE NEW MEXICAN
PVT. 1ST CLASS JOSÉ F. VALDEZ
U.S. Army, World War II Feb. 8, 1946 Born in Governador, N.M., Valdez was with Company B, 7th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division near Rosenkrantz, France, on Jan. 25, 1945, on outpost duty with five other soldiers. Valdez was credited with helping the patrol reach safety under the withering fire from two companies of German infantrymen. He continued firing even after he was shot in the stomach until the other men reached safety, then he used a field telephone to call in the position for artillery and mortar fire. He held his ground against 200 German soldiers until he could drag himself back to U.S. lines. He later died from his wounds.
STAFF SGT. FRANKLIN D. MILLER
U.S. Army, Vietnam June 15, 1971 Miller, who was living in Albuquerque when he enlisted, served with the 5th Special Forces Group, 1st Special Forces in Kontum Province. Leader of a long-range American-Vietnamese reconnaissance patrol deep in Viet Cong territory, Miller administered first aid to four of his men when they were wounded by a booby trap and then ordered them to a more secure position away from him. Alone, he fought back two attacks by the Viet Cong and then led his men to a helicopter extraction site. When the enemy attacked again, all members of the patrol, including Miller, were seriously wounded, but he again drove them back until a relief force could arrive.
mortars to blow up the weapon. He fought through the night and by dawn was surrounded. “An entire platoon charged with fixed bayonets. Firing from a sitting position, Pvt. Moon calmly emptied his magazine into the advancing horde, killing 18 and repulsing the attack. In a final display of bravery, he stood up to throw a grenade at a machine gun which had opened fire on the right flank. He was hit and instantly killed. … Nearly 200 dead Japanese were found within 100 yards of his foxhole.”
PVT. JOE P. MARTINEZ
U.S. Army, World War II Nov. 11, 1943 Martinez, a Taos native, was an automatic rifleman with Company K, 32nd Infantry, 7th Division. Over several days, Allied Forces had been unsuccessful in driving the enemy from a key defensive position in the rugged mountains between East ArmHoltz Bay and Chichagof Harbor in the Aleutians. During one attempt by his battalion to advance, Martinez stood up and kept going under withering machine-gun fire. He paused periodically during the steep climb to urge his fellow soldiers on. He used hand grenades and rifle fire to eliminate an enemy position. Martinez continued firing and advancing another 150 feet up a steep rocky ridge to the Holtz-Chichagof Pass. He was mortally wounded fighting soldiers in a trench at the top, but had cleared the way for his fellow soldiers to take the pass.
2ND LT. RAYMOND G. MURPHY
U.S. Marines, Korea Oct. 27, 1953 Born in Pueblo, Colo., Murphy entered the service in 1951, and in Korea he served with the 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, Company A, 1st Battalion. According to the citation, on Feb. 3, 1943, Murphy, although painfully wounded by fragments from an enemy mortar shell, “refused medical aid and continued to lead his men up a hill through a withering barrage of hostile mortar and small-arms fire, skillfully maneuvering his force from one position to the next and shouting words of encouragement.” Murphy made several trips up and down the hill to direct evacuation teams to wounded Marines and carried many of them to safety himself. He personally killed two of the enemy with his pistol and after the units began to disengage, he remained behind to cover the movement of friendly forces off the hill, despite his wounds. He later led a search party back up the hill to check for missing Marines, locating and carrying the bod-
LANCE CPL. KENNETH L. WORLEY
U.S. Marines, Vietnam 1968 Born in Farmington, Worley completed the eighth grade at Farmington Elementary School and attended high school in Truth or Consequences before moving to California. He enlisted in the Marines in Fresno, Calif., and was killed in action while serving as a machine gunner with Company L on Aug. 12, 1968, in Bo Ban, Quang Nam Province, after saving five fellow Marines. According to the citation, “during the early morning hours the Marines were abruptly awakened by the platoon leader’s warning that ‘grenades’ had landed in the house. Fully realizing the inevitable result of his actions, L/Cpl. Worley, in a valiant act of heroism, instantly threw himself upon the grenade nearest him and his comrades, absorbing with his body, the full and tremendous force of the explosion.”
PVT. HAROLD MOON JR.
U.S. Army, World War II Nov. 15, 1945 Born in Albuquerque, Moon was stationed with Company G, 34th Infantry, 24th Infantry Division in the Philippines during intense efforts to take and keep key beachheads. On Oct. 21, 1944, Moon’s platoon came under heavy fire, and several men on the flanks were killed. Moon, in a forward position, was wounded in his foxhole, but continued firing his machine gun at the Japanese, repeatedly exposing himself to enemy fire to encourage the men left in the platoon. When the enemy maneuvered a light machine gun within 20 yards of the platoon’s remnants, Moon stood up to locate the gun and radioed back coordinates to friendly
MEDAL OF HONOR Wednesday, July 13, 2011
CHRISTUS ST. VINCENT
is proud to honor
Sgt. 1 Class Leroy Arthur Petry
and all the men and women of the United States Armed Forces, both at home and abroad.
Closer to you.