Why He’s a Hero: The night Army Ranger Leroy Petry met his wife, he thought he had won the lottery, literally. He had purchased a bunch of scratch-off lottery tickets and one of the tickets seemed to indicate that he had won close to $1,000,000 (he was never sure of the amount, but knew it was a lot). He called his mom and told her she would never have to work again, and he told his family that he was retiring from the military. His brother’s then-girlfriend eventually looked at the ticket and informed them that the amount had to form a straight line. Deflated, Leroy was the blunt of more than a few jokes from his brothers and the fellow soldiers in his unit. Leroy didn’t win the lottery that day, but the fact that he did not meant that he would remain in the Army long enough to save the lives of two of his fellow Rangers.
On May 26, 2008, during his seventh deployment, Leroy Petry found himself in the Paktia Province of Afghanistan on a mission to capture a Taliban target. He was clearing the courtyard of a house that potentially contained high-value combatants. While crossing the courtyard, he and another Ranger, Private First Class Lucas Robinson, were engaged and wounded. An enemy round had gone through both of Petry’s legs and another had hit Robinson in the armor plate protecting his side. Petry led his wounded comrade behind a chicken coop for cover. There, they were joined by Sergeant Daniel Higgins, who began to assess their wounds.
A Taliban fighter threw a grenade at their location and the blast knocked them to the ground, injuring Higgins and further wounding Robinson. When a second grenade landed a few feet away between Petry and the other two Rangers, 28-year-old Leroy Petry lunged forward toward the grenade, picked it up, and tried to throw it around the side of the coop away from his fellow Rangers. Just as he opened his hand to release it, it exploded, amputating his right hand at the wrist and sending shrapnel into his body. Grievously wounded, this modern-day hero didn’t stop there. He then placed a tourniquet on his right wrist before radioing in support for himself and his fellow wounded Rangers. And that’s only part of his remarkable story.
Petry was evacuated to an American hospital in Germany. His wounds resulted in the loss of his right arm below the elbow. After returning home, he was eventually outfitted with an advanced prosthetic, à la the Terminator. Following his recovery, he did not seek medical discharge from the Army. Instead, he returned to Afghanistan for an eighth deployment. On July 12, 2011, Leroy Petry became the second living U.S. service member since Vietnam to be awarded the Medal of Honor, following Army Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta (above).