GAITHERSBURG, MD — Leroy Petry is known for his bravery and heroism on the battlefield. He is a recipient of the prestigious Congressional Medal of Honor for his selfless commitment to his country and his fellow troops while on duty in Afghanistan.
On May 26, 2008, in east Afghanistan along the Pakistan border, helicopters carrying dozens of Army Rangers raced over a rugged landscape. The target of the hi-risk, daylight mission: a top Al Qaeda commander in an insurgent compound.
As the helicopters touched down, the Rangers immediately came under fire. Within minutes, (then) Staff Sergeant Leroy Petry and another soldier pushed into a courtyard surrounded by high mud walls.
Petry was hit in both legs by gunfire. Yet, he led other Rangers to cover and radioed for support. He threw a grenade to provide cover as a third Ranger rushed to their aid. An enemy grenade exploded nearby, wounding Leroy’s two comrades.
Seconds later, another enemy grenade landed a few feet away. That was the moment that Leroy Petry did what few can conceive, given the instantaneous moment of choice.
The wounded, 28-year-old Ranger, husband and father of four, lunged forward into the live grenade. He picked it up to throw it back. He recalls releasing the grenade, and the explosion that knocked him over.
“It seemed like a split second later — and with what must have been the effect of adrenalin — I sat back up and looked at my arm, missing the hand and was surprised only that it wasn’t gushing blood all over the place,” he said. Petry quickly applied a tourniquet to his own arm, then turned his attention back to his squad.
Those actions, the very essence of selflessness under fire, offer a glimpse into the mind, heart and heroism of Leroy Petry, recognized officially in 2011 when he was presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Years later, and wearing the blue and gold Medal of Honor proudly in suburban Maryland, just 15 miles from the nation’s capital, Petry talked about a great and unexpected pleasure: the naming of a village in his honor.
Leroy Petry Village of Honor
The cluster of seven new homes was developed by Feherty’s Troops First Foundation for one reason: to provide comfort to wounded vets and their families, offering quiet refuge for them as they prepare to re-enter life as civilians.
Each single-family home features open architecture, energy-efficient heating and cooling, and for the comfort of hot water whenever they need it, Bradford White donated a 50-gallon power-vented water heater for each home. Tim Yeagle, manufacturer’s rep for Richmond, Virginia-based Duhart Co., took the idea to Bradford White.
Robert A. Tull Inc. based in Gaithersburg, Maryland, was approached by Troops First, and asked to consider donating the plumbing and water heater installations for one of the homes. Tull’s general manager, Eric Mann, liked the idea and presented the request to President Robert Tull who decided that they wouldn’t do the work in just one of the homes; they’d do them all.
“The soldiers [who stay in the homes] gave a lot for us. The least we can do is give back to them,” said Tull. The mechanical contracting firm has close to 100 employees.
Andy Bohan, a VP and partner in the company, served as the jobsite supervisor for the project. Eight to 10 employees served at the Village over the span of several months.
“I didn’t join the military to go to war, but to make a difference, and that’s what we’re doing here today.”
Rick Kell, CEO of Feherty’s Troops First, explained that the housing project was initiated to assist Warriors with reintegration to civilian life. “It’s a transitional housing program located closely to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. All homes are accessible, and permit soldiers and their families to live up to two years, essentially cost-free.
Petry added, “I didn’t join the military to go to war, but to make a difference, and that’s what we’re doing here today,” as he looked out over a crowd gathered to celebrate the community’s opening. Many of the vets and their families, waiting to move in, were there among them.
“Care doesn’t end when a vet leaves the hospital, so if we can inspire these vets to do their very best, now — when it matters most as they start new lives as civilians — then we enable their happy, productive return to home, a new home, and with a strengthened outlook,” added Petry.
“Each wounded warrior is unique, and has unique interests and needs,” said Lt. General Joseph Anderson, also on hand for the opening of Leroy Petry Village. “To support them as you all have, right here, is to help them regain — and retain — their dignity.”
Today, the Leroy Petry Village of Honor is home to several families in a cul-de-sac with a quiet street and plenty of shade trees — the ideal foundation for gathering among those who live there. Children play happily while vets and their spouses, at last, have the time and the footing for recovery.
Feherty’s Troops First also brought donors together to complete the project. The Foundation’s mission: to develop, operate and support wellness, quality of life and event-based initiatives for post-9/11, combat-injured warriors.
Kell commented, “initiatives like these facilitate greater recognition and better understanding of the quality and character of the men and women who volunteer to serve, their families, their daily sacrifices and the constant need to evaluate and improve their quality of life.”
“So, here, today,” added Kell, with an arm around Leroy Petry, “you have helped us achieve that goal. A lasting difference begins — right now — for those soldiers and their families who’ll mark this moment as the beginning of a fine return home.”