Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Obama awarding Medal of Honor to Wash.-based Army sergeant who lost hand in Afghanistan

President Barack Obama will award the Medal of Honor to a Washington state-based Army sergeant who lost his hand in Afghanistan when he tried to toss an enemy grenade away from himself and two colleagues.

Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Arthur Petry will be the second living, active-duty service member to receive the nation’s highest military decoration 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.

Petry was being recognized for courageous actions during combat operations against an armed enemy in the eastern Afghan province of Paktia in May 2008, the White House statement said. The 31-year-old native of Santa Fe, N.M. will receive the medal in a ceremony July 12, a White House statement said Tuesday.

“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.

Officials at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the base south of Seattle where Petry works with injured Rangers returning from deployment, referred calls to Army headquarters. A spokesman at headquarters did not immediately return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

According to the Army News Service, Petry was serving with the 75th Ranger Regiment when he was wounded during a rare daylight raid to capture a high-value target. Petry was clearing the courtyard of a targeted compound with Pvt. 1st Class Lucas Robinson when they came under fire.

A bullet pierced both of Petry’s legs, and he and Robinson took cover by a chicken coop. As Sgt. Daniel Higgins arrived, a grenade was thrown from the other side of the coop, landed about 30 feet away and exploded, wounding Higgins and Robinson.

A second grenade landed even closer to the three wounded Rangers — just a few feet away. Petry grabbed it and tried to toss it away, but it exploded in his hand.

“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 placed a tourniquet on his own right arm before reporting that he had been wounded again and that the firefight was ongoing. Two other soldiers, Staff Sgt. James Roberts and Spc. Christopher Gathercole, came to their aid. Gathercole was shot and killed by an enemy firing from another part of the courtyard; Higgins and Robinson returned fire and killed him.

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.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Charles to meet Obama in Washington

The Prince of Wales is flying to Washington for a two-day official visit that will see the royal call on US President Barack Obama.

Charles will meet the president in his Oval Office at the White House on Wednesday for talks on a range of subjects ahead of Mr Obama's state visit to the UK later this month.

Charles will travel to America in the private plane of US financier Joe Allbritton in a bid to save on travel costs. It is thought to be the first time the heir to the throne has used an aircraft paid for by a private individual for an official visit.

The move is likely to save the British taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds. But Charles may face criticism from the green lobby as the aircraft will make a number of trips without passengers.

Mr Allbritton, who is a corporate supporter of the Prince's charities and a personal friend, was invited to the recent wedding of Prince William and his new wife Kate, now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Outlining the official trip, a Clarence House spokesman said: "The Government has asked the Prince of Wales to pay a visit to the United States, needless to say our friendship with the United States is one of the most important - given the special relationship. And it's crucial that we sustain this relationship with regular high-profile visits that focus on a wide range of issues that reflect the full depth and breadth of our shared interests."

The spokesman said the visit has three main themes - environmental sustainability, co-operation between UK and US forces with particular emphasis on the welfare and support of injured service personnel, and education.

Later Charles will visit America's Supreme Court in Washington to celebrate the Marshall Scholarships. The British project, established by an Act of Parliament in 1953, funds Americans to study at UK universities in recognition of the post-war European recovery programme, known as the Marshall Plan.

Charles will go on to visit a "common good" city farm in a deprived area of Washington, where a softball field has been turned over to growing produce by local volunteers.

In the evening, the royal will attend a reception to celebrate the work of a British body and its US counterpart which both organise morale boosting events for troops. The Prince will also meet injured US servicemen and women.