Image: Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry
U.S. Army
Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry still serves in the Army.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 5/31/2011 9:48:33 PM ET 2011-06-01T01:48:33

An Army sergeant who lost his right hand throwing an armed grenade away from other wounded soldiers will become only the second living service member from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

The White House said Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry will receive the nation's highest military decoration from President Barack Obama in a ceremony July 12.

"It's very humbling to know that the guys thought that much of me and my actions that day, to nominate me for that," Petry told the Army News Service.

In its announcement, the White House said the 31-year-old native of Santa Fe, N.M., was being recognized for courageous actions during combat operations against an armed enemy in the eastern Afghan province of Paktia on May 26, 2008.

The Army News Service said Petry and another soldier came under fire as they searched a courtyard. Petry was shot through both legs and the other soldier also was wounded, the news service said. When another sergeant arrived to assess their wounds, insurgents threw a grenade that exploded and wounded that sergeant and the other soldier again.

As two more Rangers tried to reach them, another grenade landed beside the three wounded men, the news service said. Petry grabbed it and tried to throw it away from the others, but it exploded as he released it, blowing off his right hand. He placed a tourniquet around the injury and radioed for help.

The two unhurt Rangers engaged the enemy, but one was killed in the firefight. The two wounded men with Petry then opened fire and killed the last attacker, the Army News Service said.

"If not for Staff Sgt. Petry's actions, we would have been seriously wounded or killed," Higgins later wrote in a report cited by the Army News Service.

Petry enlisted in the Army in September 1999, the White House statement said. He completed multiple combat tours totaling 28 months of deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. Previous decorations include two Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart and three Army Commendation Medals.

Since recovering from his injuries, Petry has served as a liaison officer with a unit based in Fort Benning, Ga., that provides oversight to wounded, injured and ill service members and their families, the news service said.

The White House says Petry will be the second living, active-duty service member to receive a Medal of Honor for actions in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. Last year, Obama awarded a Medal of Honor to Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta, also for actions in Afghanistan.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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