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In the first nine years of the war in Afghanistan, White House officials recognized only one living battlefield hero with the Medal of Honor. In 2011, they honored two more.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry and former Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer were awarded the nation’s highest military honor at White House ceremonies this year, both for battlefield bravery that saved the lives of their fellow fighters.

Petry earned his medal while serving with the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment in 2008, during his eighth combat deployment. The Memorial Day battle was part of a dangerous and rare daylight raid of an insurgent compound in Paktia, a volatile border province in southern Afghanistan.

Petry and two other soldiers were clearing a courtyard when they were ambushed and he was shot through both legs. He stayed in the fight. When a live grenade landed near them, he grabbed the grenade and attempted to throw it away, losing his hand when it exploded.

Army officials said his calm under fire enabled his fellow soldiers to kill the attacking enemy, and his selfless, quick actions saved his fellow soldiers’ lives. Today, he works with wounded warriors as part of U.S. Special Operations Command’s Care Coalition.

Meyer’s heroics came in September 2009, in the Ganjgal Valley not far from where Petry earned his award.

Meyer fought down a mountainside to rescue wounded troops and recover the bodies of those already killed. Corps officials credited him with helping save the lives of 36 U.S. and Afghan servicemembers.

News reports this month questioned whether Corps officials exaggerated Meyer’s heroics, pointing out inconsistencies in their version of events and Army battlefield narratives. The Marine Corps has stood by the award and its version of events.

The battle itself was controversial. Three Army officers were later disciplined for not providing air support and backup to troops caught in the ambush, and Meyer has said he was ordered not to descend into the valley to help his fellow troops.

shanel@stripes.osd.milTwitter: @LeoShane


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