Jul 30, 2011

Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry - Welcome Home!

Medal of Honor hero from Santa Fe gets hometown welcome at Capitol By Trip Jennings The New Mexican

Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry, left, jokes with Rick Iannucci of Horses for Heroes, a program for injured or wounded veterans, Friday during his welcome home’ ceremony at the Capitol. Jane Phillips/The New Mexican - Jane Phillips/«IPTCCredit»

Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A. Petry is living in a whirlwind.

He has been since July 12, the day President Barack Obama presented him the Medal of Honor.

Two days after Petry received the medal, comedian Jon Stewart called Petry Luke Skywalker on national TV, referring to the robotic device the Santa Fe native wears in place of the right hand he lost in a May 2008 firefight. The talk show host also marveled at the tour in Afghanistan that Petry completed after his injury.

Since then, various officials have feted Petry, including in separate ceremonies on opposite ends of the country — Washington state and Columbus, Ga.

But Friday was special, Petry said. He was in his hometown. Maybe it was that Gov. Susana Martinez led a crowd gathered in the Capitol Rotunda in a rendition of "Happy Birthday." Petry turned 32 Friday. Or maybe it was the 40-second standing ovation his fellow New Mexicans gave him after he spoke.

" 'Wow.' That's what I've been saying since I stepped off the plane," Petry said after being wished happy birthday in song.

The crowd already knew what Petry had done to receive the nation's highest military honor.

After clearing a building in Afghanistan, Petry and another soldier passed near another break in a wall, and both were shot. One bullet went through the upper thighs of both of Petry's legs. He continued to participate in the firefight.

As another soldier examined his wounds, the enemy threw one grenade, which exploded several meters away. The enemy threw a second grenade over the chicken coop. It rolled within feet of two of Petry's fellow Army Rangers. Petry managed to grab the grenade, but it exploded as he tossed it away.

He lost his right hand, but saved two lives.

"Sgt. Petry stands before us a hero for his gallant acts on May 26 (2008), but he stands before us as a hero who was melded and molded here in Santa Fe," Timothy Hale, Cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Veteran Affairs, said minutes before Petry spoke Friday. "The things that he learned, he learned upon the shoulders, upon a heritage, of a proud state of New Mexico, a state proud with military heritage. ... You are an example for our children to follow."

When Petry spoke, you could hear a pin drop.

He made sure to thank his fellow New Mexicans for their support.

Then he made sure to say the Medal of Honor was not his alone, but represented "everyone in the uniform."

Petry also revealed a sly sense of humor.

"I love green chile," he said, prompting laughter from the crowd. "The whole time I went through rehab, I argued with Texans about poblano peppers and Hatch green chiles."

What many in the crowd did not know was that Petry had eaten at Tomasita's earlier in the day, getting a jump on his goal of eating "a lot of green chile" during his stay in New Mexico. "It's just not the same in Washington state," he quipped in an interview with media after Friday's speech.

Petry uses "yes, sir" or "yes, ma'am" a lot. He also exhibits a loyalty to his fellow Rangers, wearing the names of 10 Rangers from the 2nd Ranger Battalion who have been killed "since the global war on terror has started."

Petry had flown to New Mexico from Fort Benning, Ga. "I got to spend time with my fellow Ranger brothers," he said in an interview following Friday's ceremony. "That was tops for me. The only place I'd rather be is back overseas."

Asked if there were anything he wanted his fellow Americans to know, Petry responded, "The resiliency of all the wounded soldiers."

Petry is working with wounded soldiers returning from the battlefield.

"That's part of what drives me," he said. "I didn't recover on my own. It was recovery with fellow wounded service members that drove me to push harder and to see how hard they were pushing and what improvements they were making. It's rewarding for me."

On hand for the ceremony honoring Petry on Friday was one of New Mexico's other living Medal of Honor recipients, Hiroshi Miyamura.

Miyamura was awarded the medal for his actions on April 25, 1951, near Taejon-ni, Korea. Miyamura, a corporal at the time, helped ensure his fellow troops withdrew from an enemy overrunning their position and killed dozens of enemy combatants.

"I would advise him to keep in good shape because he's going to be kept busy for an awful long time," Miyamura said of Petry.

Miyamura said that as a Medal of Honor recipient, he had attended as many as a dozen ceremonies and other public events every year since 1967.

"You just have to decide which ones you're able to attend and which ones don't conflict with the one that you already committed yourself to," Miyamura said. "That's what he is going to be up against. There is a demand for him all over the country to make appearances. He's got a lot to look forward to."

Petry seemed to acknowledge what he is store for.

"A lot of people say you're going to be overwhelmed," Petry said. "Every chance I get to talk to our service members and ... our veterans is a great moment for me, so how can you not love that?"

Jul 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July!!!

Our friend Bill Manns took this photo of Cody and Lear this July - thought you'd all like it!

Also, look who got quoted int America's Horse this month! Click Image for Larger View: