If you see someone driving around with a Medal of Honor license plate, the vehicle may not necessarily belong to a recipient of the military’s highest honor for valor.
Retired Army Master Sgt. Leroy Petry, who received the award in 2011 for risking his life to save fellow Rangers in Afghanistan in 2008, says someone stole the plate off one of the front of his vehicle last week while it was parked at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
“So yesterday I noticed that someone stole my Medal of Honor plate from the front of my vehicle while parked at Seatac airport last week while I was visiting the troops in Ft. Eustis VA,” said Petry, 41, in a post on his Facebook page. “I had the security screws so someone must have really wanted it. Probably some Call of Duty gamer or PX Ranger. #StolenValor.”
Who does this?
Petry didn’t immediately return a Facebook message, phone call or text message seeking comment, but a spokesman for the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Police called the crime “disgusting.”
“For someone to boldy try and take something that obviously is an honor everyone recognizes, to have that kind of thing taken from someone is really a terrible situation,” said airport spokesman Perry Cooper.
The taking of the plate from the vehicle, described by Cooper as a Ford Raptor, is listed in the police report an investigation into “Theft 3 - Motor Vehicle Parts/Accessories.”
Records show that on Sept. 15, Petry called SEA-TAC airport police from the Department of Licensing to report the plate missing. Petry told police he parked his vehicle at the airport at 6:02 a.m. Sept. 9 and noticed the plate was missing when he returned at 10:23 p.m. on Sept. 11.
“That’s one of the days people keep sacred around here,” Cooper said. “I’m not even sure what a good word to describe this is, It’s disappointing that someone would think that this was worth stealing.”
The stolen plate number was logged into state and federal crime data bases. But police reviewing footage from security cameras in the garage were unable to uncover any clues about who took Petry’s plate, earned at a tremendous cost.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have much to go on at this point,” Cooper said.
The crime, said Cooper, is rare.
“This is the first time I’ve seen anything like this, where a Medal of Honor plate was stolen,” said Cooper. “And I’ve been here 14 years.”
Gallantry and intrepidity
Petry received the Medal of Honor for heroics during combat on May 26, 2008, near Paktya, Afghanistan, during which he distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry.
He received the Medal of Honor on July 12, 2011, from then-President Barack Obama for saving the lives of fellow Rangers when he picked up a grenade and threw it away from them during an intense fight. He was on his seventh deployment and assigned to D Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
He had already been shot through both legs when he saw the enemy grenade and instantly knew the danger.
“This husband and father of four did something extraordinary,” said Obama during the award ceremony in 2011. “He lunged forward, toward the live grenade. What compels such courage?”
Petry’s right hand was traumatically amputated during the fight and he now uses a state-of-the-art prosthesis, which allows him amazing dexterity.
After two deployments to Iraq and six to Afghanistan, Petry was assigned to Joint-Base Lewis McChord, Washington, where he was a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment and attached to Special Operations Command, serving as a liaison for the Special Operations Command Care Coalition, working to help other troops wounded in the war zone.
In his 15 years in the Army, he has been a grenadier, squad automatic rifleman, fire team leader, squad leader, operations sergeant and a weapons squad leader.
One of the Army’s most recognizable soldiers, an iconic figure of heroism with a prosthetic hand, he has sought to share the spotlight with fellow soldiers.
He had originally planned to stay in the Army for 20 years or more. After a medical board last fall, and continuing to deal with results of his injuries, he decided it was time to retire.
Petry was promoted to master sergeant and retired in a ceremony at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in 2014, three years after receiving the nation’s highest award for valor.
Howard Altman is an award-winning editor and reporter who was previously the military reporter for the Tampa Bay Times and before that the Tampa Tribune, where he covered USCENTCOM, USSOCOM and SOF writ large among many other topics.