Medal of Honor for Sergeant First Class Leroy Arthur Petry




Uploaded by whitehouse on 12.07.2011

Transcript:
Reverend Rutherford: Let us pray.
All mighty and ever living God, you have given us this good land
and it's founding truth for our American heritage.
We ask your presence as we gather to recognize a man who
has gone above and beyond the call of duty in defense
of that heritage.
Your providence, Sergeant First Class Leroy Petry,
valor and sacrifice saved the lives of his men and fellow
rangers in that trying day in Afghanistan.
By your grace, we know that he continues to live today
according to those same values.
Honor such heroes; you have woven the tapestry
of this great nation.
Pray that you may enable each of us as Americans to likewise live
lives of valor and sacrifice every day.
You continue weaving the tapestry of America.
We celebrate with Sergeant First Class Petry's wife, mother,
father, grandparents, his brothers and his children.
Let us remember his grandfather Leo;
celebrates with us today in a very special way.
We are grateful for all the people and events you have
used to mold this man who stands before us this day.
We are grateful too for the rangers, our soldiers, sailors,
airmen, marines and coastguardsmen,
giving their lives in this long conflict.
Give your grace and strength to their families and friends --
as they live with the loss of their loved ones and comrades.
And now, may your presence be with us in this hour,
may your guiding grace be upon on our national leadership.
Grant to all in our military, especially those who serve
today in harm's way, the strength and the wisdom
that come only from you.
You be honor in every endeavor to which you call America and
her citizens.
And finally, we pray to be upon Sergeant First Class Petry and
his family.
President Calvin Coolidge once wrote, "A nation that forgets
its defenders itself will be forgotten."
Pray that we, as a nation, hold him and those like him who have
given so much in our common defense unforgotten.
Those who come before you, we pray in your holy name.
Amen.
The President: Thank you, Chaplain Rutherford.
Please be seated.
Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the White House as
we present our nation's highest military decoration,
the Medal of Honor, to an extraordinary American soldier
-- Sergeant First Class Leroy Petry.
This is a historic occasion.
Last fall, I was privileged to present the Medal of Honor to
Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta for his heroism in Afghanistan,
and Sal joins us this afternoon.
Where's Sal?
Good to see you.
So today is only the second time during the wars in Afghanistan
and Iraq -- indeed, only the second time since Vietnam --
that a recipient of the Medal of Honor from an ongoing conflict
has been able to accept this medal in person.
And having just spent some time with Leroy,
his lovely wife Ashley, their wonderful children,
in the Oval Office, then had a chance to see the entire Petry
family here -- I have to say this could not be happening
to a nicer guy or a more inspiring family.
Leroy, the Medal of Honor reflects the deepest gratitude
of our entire nation.
So we're joined by members of Congress; Vice President Biden;
leaders from across my administration,
including Deputy Secretary of Defense Bill Lynn;
and leaders from across our Armed Forces,
including the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
General Jim "Hoss" Cartwright, Army Secretary John McHugh,
and Army Chief of Staff General Marty Dempsey.
We're honored to welcome more than 100 of Leroy's family and
friends, many from his home state of New Mexico,
as well as his fellow Rangers from the legendary Delta
Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
And as always, we are humbled by the presence of members of the
Medal of Honor Society.
Today, we honor a singular act of gallantry.
Yet as we near the 10th anniversary of the attacks
that thrust our nation into war, this is also an occasion to pay
tribute to a soldier, and a generation,
that has borne the burden of our security during a
hard decade of sacrifice.
I want to take you back to the circumstances that led
to this day.
It's May 26, 2008, in the remote east of Afghanistan,
near the mountainous border of Pakistan.
Helicopters carrying dozens of elite Army Rangers race
over the rugged landscape.
And their target is an insurgent compound.
The mission is high risk.
It's broad daylight.
The insurgents are heavily armed.
But it's considered a risk worth taking because intelligence
indicates that a top al Qaeda commander is in that compound.
Soon, the helicopters touch down,
and our Rangers immediately come under fire.
Within minutes, Leroy -- then a Staff Sergeant -- and another
soldier are pushing ahead into a courtyard,
surrounded by high mud walls.
And that's when the enemy opens up with their AK-47s.
Leroy is hit in both legs.
He's bleeding badly, but he summons the strength to lead
the other Ranger to cover, behind a chicken coop.
He radios for support.
He hurls a grenade at the enemy, giving cover to a third Ranger
who rushes to their aid.
An enemy grenade explodes nearby,
wounding Leroy's two comrades.
And then a second grenade lands -- this time,
only a few feet away.
Every human impulse would tell someone to turn away.
Every soldier is trained to seek cover.
That's what Sergeant Leroy Petry could have done.
Instead, this wounded Ranger, this 28-year-old man with his
whole life ahead of him, this husband and father of four,
did something extraordinary.
He lunged forward, toward the live grenade.
He picked it up.
He cocked his arm to throw it back.
What compels such courage?
What leads a person to risk everything so that
others might live?
For answers, we don't need to look far.
The roots of Leroy's valor are all around us.
We see it in the sense of duty instilled by his family,
who joins us today -- his father Larry, his mother Lorella,
and his four brothers.
Growing up, the walls of their home were hung with pictures of
grandfathers and uncles in uniform,
leading a young Leroy to believe "that's my calling, too."
We see it in the compassion of a high school student who
overcame his own struggles to mentor younger kids to
give them a chance.
We see it in the loyalty of an Army Ranger who lives by
a creed: "Never shall I fail my comrades."
Or as Leroy puts it, "These are my brothers -- family just like
my wife and kids -- and you protect the ones you love."
And that's what he did that day when he picked up that grenade
and threw it back -- just as it exploded.
With that selfless act, Leroy saved his two Ranger brothers,
and they are with us today.
His valor came with a price.
The force of the blast took Leroy's right hand.
Shrapnel riddled his body.
Said one of his teammates, "I had never seen someone
hurt so bad."
So even his fellow Rangers were amazed at what Leroy did next.
Despite his grievous wounds, he remained calm.
He actually put on his own tourniquet.
And he continued to lead, directing his team,
giving orders -- even telling the medics how
to treat his wounds.
When the fight was won, as he lay in a stretcher being loaded
onto a helicopter, one of his teammates came up to shake the
hand that Leroy had left.
"That was the first time I shook the hand of someone who I
consider to be a true American hero," that Ranger said.
Leroy Petry "showed that true heroes still exist and that
they're closer than you think."
That Ranger is right.
Our heroes are all around us.
They're the millions of Americans in uniform who
have served these past 10 years, many -- like Leroy -- deploying
tour after tour, year after year.
On the morning of 9/11, Leroy was training to be a Ranger,
and as his instructor got the terrible news,
they told Leroy and his class, "Keep training,
you might be going to war."
Within months Leroy was in Afghanistan for the first of
seven deployments since 9/11.
Leroy speaks proudly of the progress our troops have made --
Afghan communities now free from the terror of the Taliban and
Afghan forces that are taking more responsibility
for their security.
And he carries with him the memories of Americans who have
made the ultimate sacrifice to make this progress possible.
Earlier in the Oval Office, Leroy gave me the extraordinary
privilege of showing me the small plaque that is bolted
to his prosthetic arm.
On it are the names of the fallen Rangers from
the 75th Regiment.
They are, quite literally, part of him,
just as they will always be part of America.
One of those names is of the Ranger who did
not come back from the raid that day -- Specialist
Christopher Gathercole.
Christopher's brother and sister and grandmother are
here with us today.
I would ask that they stand briefly so that we can show
our gratitude for their family's profound sacrifice.
(applause)
Our heroes are all around us.
They're the force behind the force -- military spouses like
Ashley, who during Leroy's many deployments,
during missed birthdays and holidays,
has kept this family Army Strong.
So we're grateful to you, Ashley,
and for all the military spouses who are here.
(applause)
They're military children, like Brittany and Austin and Reagan,
and seven-year-old Landon, who at the end of a long day is
there to gently rub his dad's injured arm.
And so I want to make sure that we acknowledge these
extraordinary children as well.
(applause)
Our heroes are all around us.
They're our men and women in uniform who through a decade
of war have earned their place among the greatest
of generations.
During World War II, on D-Day, it was the Rangers of D Company
who famously scaled the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc.
After 9/11, we learned again -- "Rangers Lead the Way."
They were some of the first boots on
the ground in Afghanistan.
They have been deployed continuously ever since.
Today, we can see our progress in this war and our success
against al Qaeda, and we're beginning to bring our troops
home from Afghanistan this summer.
Understand there will be more fighting -- and more sacrifices
-- in the months and years to come.
But I am confident that because of the service of men and women
like Leroy, we will be able to say of this generation what
President Reagan once said of those Rangers who took the
cliffs on D-Day -- "These are the heroes who helped
end a war."
I would ask all of our Rangers -- members of
the 9/11 generation -- to stand and accept the thanks
of a grateful nation.
(applause)
Finally, the service of Leroy Petry speaks to the very essence
of America -- that spirit that says,
no matter how hard the journey, no matter how steep the climb,
we don't quit.
We don't give up.
Leroy lost a hand and those wounds in his legs sometimes
make it hard for him to stand.
But he pushes on, and even joined his fellow Rangers
for a grueling 20-mile march.
He could have focused only on his own recovery,
but today he helps care for other wounded warriors,
inspiring them with his example.
Given his wounds, he could have retired from the Army,
with honor, but he chose to re-enlist -- indefinitely.
And this past year he returned to Afghanistan -- his eighth
deployment -- back with his Ranger brothers on another
mission to keep our country safe.
This is the stuff of which heroes are made.
This is the strength, the devotion that makes our troops
the pride of every American.
And this is the reason that -- like a soldier named Leroy Petry
-- America doesn't simply endure,
we emerge from our trials stronger, more confident,
with our eyes fixed on the future.
Our heroes are all around us.
And as we prepare for the reading of the citation,
please join me in saluting one of those heroes -- Leroy Petry.
(applause)
Military Aide: The President of the United States of America,
authorized by act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded,
in the name of Congress, the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant
Leroy A. Petry, United States Army.
Staff Sergeant Leroy A. Petry distinguished himself by acts
of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and
beyond the call of duty, in action, with an armed enemy
in the vicinity of Paktya province, Afghanistan,
on May 26, 2008.
As a weapons squad leader with Delta Company, 2nd Battalion,
75th Ranger Regiment, Staff Sergeant Petry moved to clear
the courtyard of a house that potentially contained
high-value combatants.
While crossing the courtyard, Staff Sergeant Petry and another
Ranger were engaged and wounded by automatic weapons fire from
enemy fighters.
Still under enemy fire and wounded in both legs,
Staff Sergeant Petry led the other Ranger to cover.
He then reported the situation and engaged the enemy with a
hand grenade, providing suppression as another
Ranger moved to his position.
The enemy quickly responded by maneuvering closer and
throwing grenades.
The first grenade explosion knocked his two fellow Rangers
to the ground and wounded both with shrapnel.
A second grenade then landed only a few feet away from them.
Instantly realizing the danger, Staff Sergeant Petry,
unhesitatingly and with complete disregard for his safety,
deliberately and selflessly moved forward,
picked up the grenade, and in the effort to clear the
immediate threat, threw the grenade away from his
fellow Rangers.
As he was releasing the grenade it detonated,
amputating his right hand at the wrist and further injuring him
with multiple shrapnel wounds.
Although picking up and throwing the live grenade grievously
wounded Staff Sergeant Petry, his gallant act undeniably saved
his fellow Rangers from being severely wounded or killed.
Despite the severity of his wounds,
Staff Sergeant Petry continued to maintain the presence of mind
to place a tourniquet on his right wrist before communicating
the situation by radio in order to coordinate support for
himself and his fellow wounded Rangers.
Staff Sergeant Petry's extraordinary heroism and
devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of
military service and reflect great credit upon himself,
the 75th Ranger Regiment, and the United States Army.
(the medal is presented)
(applause)
Reverend Rutherford: Let us pray.
Lord, be upon us this day we all live the values and celebrate
the commitment to our nation Sergeant First
Class Petry has modeled.
Give us strength this day and keep us always in your care as
we pray in your holy name.
Amen.
The President: Thank you all for attending this extraordinary
ceremony for this extraordinary hero.
I hope that all of you will join the family.
There is going to be an outstanding reception.
I hear the food is pretty good around here.
(laughter)
And I know the music is great, because we've got my own Marine
Band playing.
So thank you so much for your attendance.
And once again, congratulations, Leroy,
for your extraordinary devotion to our country.
Thank you very much.
(applause)