Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.— A discreet man in fatigues and a camel-colored beret passed between the two companies of Warrior Forge’s 9th Regiment before their Regimental Activation Ceremony on July 2. His eyes shone as he beamed at the other personnel in attendance, most of whom outranked him. But whether Master Sergeant, Major, Lieutenant Colonel or Colonel, every individual’s right hand snapped quickly to a salute, their smiles reflecting the man’s.
On the right-breast side of the man’s uniform was the name “Petry.”
His full name is Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry, of Steilacoom, Wash. He received the Medal of Honor on July 12, 2011, making him one of only three living recipients of the award for the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Petry, who lost his right hand in combat, said he had wanted to come to the Leader Development and Assessment Course for some time.
He decided the day before to stop into Warrior Forge Headquarters and ask if he could visit. Naturally, Headquarters acquiesced. In spite of his position, Petry said having the opportunity to come to LDAC was important to him.
“Seeing how [the training] is coming along gives me great confidence in the future of our Army,” said Petry.
Petry spent the day touring the various training sites and visiting with Cadets. He said what he saw reminded him of his own basic training. With another bright smile, he jokingly added that he was glad to finally get to see the people who “take our land every summer.”
“There’s a lot of team building up here, which is extremely important in the military services,” he said.
Capt. Joe McNair, Platoon Tactical Officer, said Petry’s visit was incredibly significant for everyone associated with LDAC.
“If it’s important for an active-duty soldier, it’s especially important for the Cadets to see a real-life hero,” said McNair.
McNair said Petry seems to have humbly accepted his new position as a role model and represents “everything good about the Army.”
“I know he’s a man just like everyone else, but he represents so much more than that,” he said. “[The Cadets] had a great example of what true resilience looks like.” Cadet Charles Streb, Alpha Co., 9th Regiment, of Geneseo, N.Y., a student at Niagra University said it was important to him that someone outside ROTC showed an interest in the training and that he gained a lot from Petry’s example. “I’d say it’s mostly [about] the ability to lead from the front even if you’re not in charge at that moment,” said Streb. While Petry’s visit inspired Cadets, he said he thinks the Cadets have already shown they’re inspired by coming this far.
“I hope they continue to do great things in defense of our nation and the Constitution,” said Petry.
As the Cadets and Cadre filed away from the gravel lot where RAC had been, several of them lagged behind to shake Petry’s hand and thank him for his visit or for his service. Sometimes it was simply an ambiguous, sincere “thank you.”
“I don’t consider myself any different,” said Petry. “I still wear the same uniform and the same flag on my shoulders.”
Story by Monica Spees.