President Barack Obama has awarded the highest American military award, the Medal of Honor, to a US Army Ranger who saved two comrades in a firefight in Afghanistan in 2008, but lost his hand in the action.
Sergeant 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry exhibited a “singular act of gallantry”, according to USA Today’s Oval website. Obama said and asked the question:
"What leads a person to risk everything so that others may live?"
The Tucson Citizen quoted a comrade of Petrys, who said:
“True heroes still exist, and they’re closer than you think.”
Part of the Citation for the medal reads:
“Under enemy fire and wounded in both legs, Staff Sergeant Petry led the other Ranger to cover. He then reported the situation and engaged the enemy with a hand grenade, providing suppression as another Ranger moved to his position.
The enemy quickly responded by manoeuvring closer and throwing grenades. The first grenade explosion knocked his two fellow Rangers to the ground and wounded both with shrapnel. A second grenade landed only a few feet away from them. Instantly realizing the danger, Staff Sergeant Petry, unhesitatingly and with complete disregard for his safety, deliberately and selflessly moved forward, picked up the grenade, and in the effort to clear the immediate threat, threw the grenade away from his fellow Rangers. As he was releasing the grenade it detonated, amputating his right hand at the wrist and further injuring him with multiple shrapnel wounds.
Although picking up and throwing the live grenade grievously wounded Staff Sergeant Petry, his gallant act undeniably saved his fellow Rangers from being severely wounded or killed.”
The Medal of Honor, often erroneously called the “Congressional Medal of Honor”, because the grant must be ratified by the US Congress, is the highest military award that the United States grants to its uniformed service members.
The medal has been awarded since the American Civil War with 3,474 recipients, of which 627 have been posthumous.
The BBC released this video of the ceremony.