(NewsNation) — This weekend, the U.S. is observing National Medal of Honor Day. It’s a time to recall and honor the valor and bravery of our servicemen and women who have gone above and beyond the call of duty.
While serving in Afghanistan, Sergeant First Class Leroy Arthur Petry steered fellow soldiers away from harm, losing his right hand in the process as he tried to clear out an active grenade that had been thrown in his direction.
Petry went on to receive the nation’s highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, in 2011 from then-President Barack Obama.
“Every human impulse would tell someone to turn away. Every soldier is trained to seek cover. That’s what Sergeant Leroy Petry could have done. Instead, this wounded ranger, this 28-year-old man with his whole life ahead of him, this husband and father of four, did something extraordinary. He lunged forward, toward the live grenade. He picked it up … and threw it up back just as it exploded,” former President Obama said at the Medal of Honor ceremony.
Now, Petry works as a liaison officer for the U.S. Special Operations Command Care Coalition. He says receiving the Medal of Honor is humbling and that it represents the spirit of Americans.
“I wear this medal for all those who are serving, all those who have served, and especially those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. But it’s a symbol that any of us is capable of great things, that we all have inside of us. The courage, the commitment, the citizenship, the patriotism, the honor and integrity are the values that we try to instill in a lot of people that we engage with,” Petry told NewsNation’s Natasha Zouves.
Petry would go through it all again for his country.
“I looked at those guys like my brothers, like my kids. They’re family, and even if they were strangers, they are still Americans that I would sacrifice for, to try and help them not be killed. That’s the commitment that I have is to love another human as treating them with respect and everything. I look at those guys, as my family, and my family, my friends and my country are important to me,” Petry said.
Petry said while there seem to be many divisive events going on all over the world, all around U.S. borders and within the country, the U.S. should “look at what unites us and build on that.”
“The way you can honestly thank a servicemember or somebody who provides something for our country, which we all enjoy, is to be a person worth sacrificing for. Be a person worth dying for, so that it’s not in vain,” Petry said, later adding: “If we all try to be better people and better neigbors, that’s the way we’re going to get back to being a better country — is be a better person.”
In the video above, Petry reflects on his experience in an interview with NewsNation’s Natasha Zouves.