Sgt 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry is one of only two living recipients of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War. And how he earned it is a story that you need to hear.
Petry had holed up with his platoon in a building in Afghanistan when he and his team took on heavy insurgent gunfire. As he attempted to clear the courtyard of the building, along with Ranger Pvt 1st Class Lucas Robinson, he encountered two hostiles peppering the area with AK-47s. Petry was hit in both thighs, Robinson in the ribcage. And though both men found modest cover in a nearby chicken coop, they continued to draw fire even when Sgt. Daniel Higgins moved to join them and inspect their wounds.
And then? Then the grenades came.
The first landed 10m away, exploding with enough force to knock them off balance and injure Higgins and Robinson. The next one was truer to its target, dropping just feet from the trio. In seconds, they’d all be dead. And that’s when Petry, with two wounded legs, sprang into action:
“I had time to visually see the hand grenade. And I figure it’s got about a four-and-half second fuse, depending on how long it has been in the elements and the weather and everything and how long the pin has been pulled. I figure if you have time to see it you have time to kick it, throw it, just get it out there.”
That’s when Petry picked up the grenade and threw it away from him and his buddies. As it turns out, he did have the time to save all three of their lives – but not time to save his hand.
The grenade exploded as he threw it – destroying his throwing arm.
Petry didn’t realise that the grenade had gone off until he looked down at his arm, and found air and smoke where his hand used to be.
That alone would have been enough. More than, really. Except Petry was fitted with a prosthetic hand, and after a short convalescence and rehabilitation actually reenlisted with the Rangers, heading back to Afghanistan for eight more years of service to his country.