Since he was 7 years old, Leroy Petry—a Native of New Mexico—wanted to join the Army. That chance came in September of 1999, when Petry was 21 years old.

He enlisted from his hometown in New Mexico, volunteering for the 75th Ranger Regiment, the very unit he served with on that fateful day on May 26, 2008. While clearing the courtyard of a house in the Paktya Province, Afghanistan as a Weapons Squad Leader, enemy fighters opened fire on Petry and another Ranger.

The automatic weapons wounded both men, yet Petry managed to lead them both to cover, despite injuries to both legs. He reported the situation and then fought back, throwing a hand grenade toward the enemy. However, the enemy responded by firing back with more grenades, the second of which changed Petry's life.

It landed only a few feet from Petry and his comrades. Without hesitation, he leaned in and picked up the grenade to throw it away; yet the grenade detonated as Petry released it. The explosion amputated Petry's right hand at the wrist and wounded him further with multiple shrapnel injuries. His courageous act, however, saved his fellow Rangers from severe wounds or death.

Even after the grenade's explosion, Petry managed to form a tourniquet around his wrist and coordinate support through the radio for him and his other wounded men.

Therefore, for his "extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service," the White House presented Petry with the Medal of Honor on July 12, 2011, making him the second living recipient since the Vietnam War.