In an East Room ceremony today, President Obama honored Sergeant First Class Leroy Arthur Petry with the Medal of Honor for his "singular act of gallantry" in grabbing a live grenade and throwing it away as it exploded in Afghanistan in 2008. Petry, who is only the second living active duty service member to receive America's most prestigious military distinction for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan, saved his life and the lives of two fellow soldiers but lost his right hand. Obama noted that even with a missing hand and wounds in his legs that occasionally made it difficult for him to stand up, Petry "chose to re-enlist. This past year, he returned to Afghanistan--his eighth deployment." Reuters photographed Petry applauding his fellow soldiers with his prosthetic hand during the ceremony:
As ABC News points out, Obama has previously bestowed the honor to two other soldiers: Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta and Sergeant First Class Jared Monti, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2006. Rebekah Sanderlin at The New York Times notes that while the U.S. is engaging in longer wars, it's distributing fewer Medals of Honor than it once did. She calls for more recognition of heroism and rejects the Pentagon's explanation for the paradoxical trend:
For their part, Pentagon officials have tried to explain the small number of recent Medals of Honor by insisting that the exclusivity and the integrity of the award be maintained, and saying that an increased dependence on 'standoff' weapons, such as drones and attack aircraft--or homemade mines on the part of the enemy--means that there are fewer 'individual combat actions.' In other words, we are relying more on technology these days and are, therefore, less likely to have heroics on the battlefield--an explanation so obtuse as to be offensive.