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Originally published May 31, 2011 at 4:14 PM | Page modified June 1, 2011 at 9:45 AM

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Lewis-McChord soldier will receive Medal of Honor

An Army Ranger serving at Joint Base Lewis-McChord is to be awarded the Medal of Honor for courage he displayed as he lost his right hand tossing an armed grenade away from comrades in Afghanistan.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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An Army Ranger stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord has been chosen for the Medal of Honor for courage he displayed while handling an armed grenade that threatened his comrades in Afghanistan and cost him his right hand.

Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry will receive the nation's highest military decoration from President Obama in a ceremony July 12, according to a White House statement.

The announcement said the 31-year-old native of Santa Fe, N.M., was being recognized for courageous actions in May 2008 during combat operations against an armed enemy in the eastern Afghan province of Paktia.

"It's very humbling to know that the guys thought that much of me and my actions that day, to nominate me for that," Petry said upon learning he had been nominated for the medal, according to the Army News Service.

Petry will be the second living, active-duty service member to receive a Medal of Honor for actions in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. Obama last year awarded a Medal of Honor to Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta, also for actions in Afghanistan. Seven other service members who fought in those wars have been awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

At the time he lost his hand, Petry was serving with the 2nd Battalion, 75th Army Regiment, a Joint Base Lewis-McChord Ranger unit, according to the Army News Service.

His unit was in mountainous Paktia province and was involved in an unusual daylight raid against what the Army described as a "high-value target."

Petry's injury occurred as he and a fellow member of an assault squad, Pfc. Lucas Robinson, were helping to clear a compound and encountered three enemy fighters at the end of a courtyard.

The two men took heavy fire as they crossed the courtyard. Both were wounded and sought cover in a chicken coop. A third soldier, Sgt. Daniel Higgins, had joined them in the chicken coop when the enemy attacked with two grenades.

A first grenade exploded some 10 yards away, knocking all three men to the ground and injuring Robinson and Higgins. The second grenade landed a short distance from them. Petry, "with complete disregard for his personal safety," picked up the live grenade and released it in the direction of the enemy, according to the Army News Service.

His action prevented serious injury or death to the two other Rangers. Yet, the grenade detonated as Petry sought to toss it, blowing off his hand.

Petry tied a tourniquet around his arm to stanch the bleeding as the other soldiers continued to fight.

"If not for Staff Sgt. Petry's actions, we would have been seriously wounded or killed," Higgins later wrote in a statement that was included in the Army News Service report.

Petry enlisted in the Army in September 1999. He has served a combined 28 months of front-line duty during numerous combat tours to Afghanistan and Iraq.

He currently serves at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where he is attached to Special Operations Command, and tracks and monitors injured Rangers returning from combat zones

"I think he lives by example and is very committed to his soldiers," said Janice Buckley, president of Washington-based Heartbeat-Serving Wounded Warriors. She met Petry during a May meeting with Ranger officials at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where she talked about a program that offers scuba diving as therapy for wounded soldiers.

Petry's military decorations include two Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart, three Army Commendation Medals, two Army Achievement Medals, a National Defense Service Medal, three Army Good Conduct Medals and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, according to the White House website.

His wife, Ashley, and other family members will join Petry when he receives the Medal of Honor at the White House.

Information from Seattle Times wire services was included in this report.

Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581

or hbernton@seattletimes.com

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