Real Heroes: Meeting SFC Leroy Petry

By: Peter Sessum

MOH recipient SFC Leroy Petry taking time to talk to veteran Peter Sessum on the 18th green. Photo By: Aaron Stadler

So there I was, on the 18th green, no shit. It was the last day of Rumble on the Ridge golf tournament. It was military appreciation day and the pin on the 18th hole was an American flag. As each group would finish, a military member in dress uniform would replace the flag. Each time, the crowd would cheer. It was pretty cool. Walking the course with the leaders was Medal of Honor (MOH) recipient Sergeant First Class (SFC) Leroy Petry.

MOH recipients are our rock stars. It is nice to meet someone that has put out a couple CDs, but shaking the hand of a man that represents It used to be called the Congressional Medal of Honor (CMH). Since Vietnam, there have only been three living MOH recipients. Most do not survive the incident that they are awarded for.

For the gomers and if only rangers who think that they could be in the Ranger Battalion because they played a video game all weekend long, you don’t have what it takes to tie this guy’s boots. I still get chills when I read the MOH citation. We all want to think that when we are tested by life that we will pass. I know that I have mettle, but I don’t know if I got what Petry is made of. I have met three MOH recipients and read more than a few citations. While they are all worthy, Petry’s is incredible. No one would have blamed him for taking a time out after being shot in both legs and losing his hand returning a live hand grenade. But in true Ranger style he tied a tourniquet on his wrist and radioed for back up.

Now he is one of a handful of men that get saluted by the president. Regardless of rank, everyone salutes the MOH recipient. I think that Petry is the only one still serving. The Marine was already out and the other Army sergeant was planning on getting out.

I saw Petry when the tournament leaders teed off but I didn’t get a chance to meet him until the end. While watching the last few groups finish up, one caddy pulled the flag/pin out of the 18th hole and set it on the ground. Now I know it is just a piece of fabric to most people, but it is what that piece fo fabric represents. It was all I could do not to rush onto the green, but I was working in a press capacity and my actions would not reflect on me alone. Fortunately, one of the military members walked over and secured the flag.

After the last putt was sank and a winner declared, the tournament officials met on the 18th green for the photo shoot. The flag wasn’t put back in the hole since it would block the pictures. One woman was walking around trying to figure out what to do with it and I overheard he say, “I don’t know what to do with this, I don’t want to set it on the ground.”

Neither were comfortable when simple greeting became a photo op, but both were troopers. Photo By: Aaron Stadler

I offered to hold it and she happily passed it off to me. After the pictures were done, Aaron said I should walk over and meet Petry. I brought the flag with me. Everything that I had heard about the man was true. He was humble and down to earth. His prosthetic hand felt a little weird as it closed on my hand to shake. A MOH recipient standing there by the flag made a good photo op so I got some extra time with him.

As we stood there while the photographers snapped away I explained why I was guarding the flag. “One of the caddies put it on the ground,” I said.
“Did you run him through with it,” Petry said.
“No, I was too far away, but I thought about it.”

He smiled and I thanked him and said it was an honor meeting him. While it is well known that I like myself, it is moments like that one that truly humble me. It is also why I don’t brag too much about my experiences. I am a guy that went overseas, did his job and came home without any holes in his uniforms. It is men like Petry that deserve our respect. It humbles me to be part of the same organization as men like him and that true warriors call me brother.

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