Medal of Honor recipient tells cadets it's all about attitude

Army 1st Sgt. Leroy Petry, a Medal of Honor recipient speaking at The Citadel Tuesday, holds up the prosthesis for the right hand he lost to a grenade in Afghanistan.

A Medal of Honor recipient speaking at The Citadel Tuesday was asked if he would do anything differently if he could relive the day he lost his right hand to a grenade.

Army 1st Sgt. Leroy Petry, who was wounded saving his Ranger buddies in Afghanistan in 2008, didn’t hesitate.

“Throw with my left hand,” he said, holding up his prosthesis.

Several hundred cadets listening to him in McAlister Field House laughed, and Petry laughed too. It’s all about attitude, he said.

President Barack Obama, who gave Petry the medal two years ago, noted that Petry could have retired with honors after his ordeal. Instead he re-enlisted. They won’t let him back on the front lines, but he spends his time working with wounded Rangers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.

When asked what one quote he would leave for posterity, he said, “Do something today to better others and yourself.”

Petry, 34, will join cadets Wednesday for service projects in local schools as part of the college’s leadership day.

Petry was wounded in both legs by Taliban forces outside a house in Afghanistan May 26, 2008. A live grenade landed near him and his fellow Rangers. He grabbed it. The grenade went off as he threw it, blowing off his hand. He tied up his wrist with a tourniquet and continued to direct his men.

“His gallant act undeniably saved his fellow Rangers from being severely wounded or killed,” according to his Medal of Honor citation.

Petry is married with four children. One of his sons is in college.

“The greatest pride a parent can have is knowing his child is not going to be a drain on society but is going to contribute to its success,” he told the cadets.

He said his 10-year-old son plans to go out trick-or-treating dressed in a Ranger uniform — as Sgt. Leroy Petry, Medal of Honor winner.

Col. Joseph Trez, director of the Krause Center for Leadership and Ethics, moderated a question and answer session after Petry’s talk.

Bo Moore, dean of humanities and social sciences, gave Petry a Citadel ring before he was mobbed by cadets coming out of the stands.

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553 or follow him on twitter @dmunday.