Living History: The Medal of Honor



There is no American award more prestigious than the Medal of Honor, and today marks the 149th anniversary of the establishment of the Army service medal by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. The bill reads:

[T]he President of the United States be, and he is hereby, authorized to cause two thousand “medals of honor” to be prepared with suitable emblematic devices, and to direct that the same be presented, in the name of the Congress, to such non-commissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other soldier-like qualities, during the present insurrection.

Though the award was created in July of 1862, the first heroic act to earn the Medal of Honor happened in February 1861. Army Assistant Surgeon Bernard Irwin broke an Apache siege and rescued sixty men in Arizona. He received the medal in 1894.

A century and a half after the Medal of Honor was established by Lincoln, another president from Illinois will award the medal to a living recipient–only the second from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sergeant First Class and Army Ranger Leroy Petry earned the award when his team came under insurgent attack during a raid in Afghanistan in 2008. A fighter lobbed a grenade at his men, but SFC Petry grabbed it and tossed it away from his men without hesitation. He lost a hand in the process, but saved the lives of his men. As the saying goes, he showed “conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty.” A play-by-play battlescape feature breaks down the event in detail.

We at VA wish to extend our congratulations to a truly selfless leader. The Medal of Honor has only been awarded 3,456 times since President Lincoln created the award. The courage and sacrifice exemplified in the awardees is truly uncommon.


Alex Horton


  1. Youtube to MP3 converter    

    Your story is just amazing and we are all very proud of you. Thank you so much for fighting for our freedom.

  2. android developers    

    I served in the Army as a Combat Medic During Vietnam and the Cold War. I salute you for your selfless act of bravery….It makes me proud to have such a great solider in our family of vets.

  3. Chuck Taft    

    I am very proudly in our U.S Army soldier. Also he is deserving to receive a reward “medal of honor”. I salute you all soldier.


  4. Mike Phelps    

    An inspiring story for all of us. I’m glad Sergeant First Class Petry was able to accept the Medal of Honor in person. Too many heroes only receive it after they have made the ultimate sacrifice.

  5. David Mac Donald    

    Thank you SFC Petry for the heroism you showed in protecting your fellow soldiers without regard for your5 own safety. I served in the Army as a Combat Medic During Vietnam and the Cold War. I salute you for your selfless act of bravery. The Medal Of Honor has only been awarded 3,456 times since it was created, and your act of bravery is well deserving of this honor.

  6. Ms. Daryl Malina    

    Dear Staff Sergeant Leroy Petry,

    You truly are a hero to save Private First Class Robinson and Sergeant Higgins lives without concern for your own life. Your story is just amazing and we are all very proud of you. Thank you so much for fighting for our freedom. I hope you are alright. Congratulation on receiving the Medal of Honor! Take care, we care.

  7. John Graffio    

    Sacrifice without hesitation.

  8. Gary Soots    

    Congratulations Sergeant Petry our Nations newest recipient of the Medal of Honor. Your courage not only reflects greatly on you, but also the men and women of our armed forces who have served so valiantly throughout the Long War, also known as the Global War on Terror. You and other veternas of this war have been under-represented in the rolls of recipients of the Mation’s highest award for Valor. You represent some of the finest men and women that have served our country since the first shot rang out at Lexington green. Your service will not be in vain and your sacrifice has now been recognized by Congress.

    God bless you.

    Gary Soots
    First Sergeant, US Army Retired
    Former Custodian of the Medal of Honor Roll, US Army 1997-1998

  9. Diana Mann    

    I’m just a regular U.S. citizen, but just wanted to say a giant THANK YOU to Sgt. Petry for what he did that day. Thank you today and every day.

  10. SPC Michael    

    For those that have fought for it freedom leaves a tase in their mouths that the preotected shall never know. It makes me proud to have such a great solider in our family of vets.

  11. Richard Hom    

    We are in a brother hood that few Americans can understand and that is what makes us the best combat force in the world. Those Americans that do not understand the sacrafices we make for there freedom should be ashamed. Many loose their lives to protect this freedom and we do not do it because we have to, we do it because we want to. Hats off to SFC Petry and those that have been awarded this Prestigous medal before him, all of them represent the best fighting force in the world.I am a proud soldier and a proud father that has a son serving currently in theater.

    God Bless All of you fine men and women still serving.

    MSG HOM (Retired)

  12. Nathan Stanfield    

    As a Vietnam Veteran and a LRRP, I am glad to see such a deserving Soldier recieve this Medal for his actions. I shows Honor, Duty and camrades come before life. I like to add my “Thank You” for his service, for his country and all of us that live here.

  13. Arlene Campbell    

    a quote sent by a friend “A Veteran is someone who at one point in his life, wrote a blank check payable to the “United States of America” for an amount of up to and including my life. That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it! Thanks and God Bless all who serve and sacrifice especially those from Bernard Irwin to Leroy Petry, Medal of Honor winners, and all those whose valor may be unsung.

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