ABC News’ Mary Bruce (@marykbruce) Reports:
Today President Obama awarded the nation’s highest military honor to Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry for his courageous actions in combat in Afghanistan, explaining “this is the stuff of which heroes are made.”
Petry, a 31-year-old Army Ranger from New Mexico, is the second living, active duty service member to receive the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Today, we honor a singular act of gallantry,” Obama said at a solemn White House ceremony. “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.”
On May 26, 2008, Petry lost his right hand when he threw a live grenade away from two wounded comrades during combat with armed insurgents in Afghanistan's Paktia province.
“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,” Obama said. Instead, Petry, who had already been shot in both legs, lunged for the grenade which exploded as he hurled it away from his fellow Rangers.
“What compels such courage? What leads a person to risk everything so that others might live?” Obama asked.
Given his wounds Petry could have retired, with honor, but instead he chose to re-enlist. This past year, the father of four returned to Afghanistan for his eighth deployment.
“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,” the President said in awarding his third Medal of Honor.
Speaking after the ceremony Petry said that “to be singled out is very humbling.”
“I consider every one of our men and women in uniform serving here and abroad to be our heroes,” he told reporters gathered at the White House stakeout. “They sacrifice every day and deserve your continued support and recognition. I ask whenever you have the chance or opportunity to thank them, shake their hand, give them a pat on the back, for the job they’ve done because they’ve earned it… The greatest reward any service member can get is a simple thank you.”
Petry thanked the president for the tremendous honor and for welcoming his family to the White House. “Military families sacrifice as much as those who wear the uniform, so please continue to keep all the military families in your thoughts and prayers,” he said.
The Medal of Honor recipient, whose prosthetic arm has a small plaque bearing the names of the fallen soldiers from his regiment, thanked his fellow Rangers, calling them “the finest in the world.”
“Rangers lead the way,” he said in concluding his remarks. “God bless the United States of America.”