The New Mexico History Museum has a soft spot for military veterans. In our exhibits, we honor the men who served aboard the USS New Mexico, who endured the Bataan Death March, who answered the nation’s call time and again — as far back as the U.S. Revolution. Today, outside our windows and on the streets of the Santa Fe Plaza, the whole state showed its soft spot for one veteran and Santa Fe native in particular.
Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry recently became America’s newest Medal of Honor recipient. Over the last few days, he’s enjoyed a series of welcome-home events, but today was the cream of them all: A parade with bagpipers, a Color Guard, Vietnam veterans on Harley Davidsons, Cub Scouts waving flags bigger than themselves from the sidewalk, and a host of people bearing homemade banners and snapping keepsake photographs.
The weather cooperated with turquoise skies and a mild temperature. Mayor Dave Coss and Gov. Susana Martinez joined the procession, beaming and waving to the crowd. You can find plenty of background about the Army Ranger on the U.S. Army’s web page dedicated to him, along with the Santa Fe New Mexican’s collection of stories. In short, here’s what it took to make a hero:
While under fire in Afghanistan, Petry was struck and severely wounded when a Russian-made grenade was tossed toward him and his men. Despite his wounds, Petry reached for the grenade and prepared to toss it away when it instead blew up, taking his right hand with it.
From President Obama’s remarks at the Medal of Honor ceremony: “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 back – just as it exploded.”
If you haven’t already seen it, Petry’s appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is well worth watching. (Warning: Your eyes will tear up, and you will laugh out loud when Stewart compares Petry to a Jedi warrior.)
In the meantime, check out our album of images from today’s parade, when New Mexico honored a favorite son.