A simple but powerful project is under way that provides homes for wounded troops and honors a living recipient of the Medal of Honor.
The Leroy Petry Village of Honor will offer free housing for the families of veterans being treated at nearby Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Now under construction and due to be completed by early 2017, the complex will have seven fully accessible single-family homes. Residents will only have to pay for utilities, and can stay for up to two years.
Since returning from the battlefield, Sgt. Petry has been an incredible advocate for wounded soldiers and their families. His personal resilience and humility serves as a continuous inspiration to others, helping them overcome the hurdles of recovering from injuries and reintegrating into civilian life.
Wounded veterans might spend months receiving medical treatment and evaluation far from their home states, often leaving family members to choose between being separated or taking on the cost of a hotel room or home rental.
“Housing, education, and employment are paramount areas of concern for military transitioning out for medical reasons,” says Rick Kell, co-founder of Feherty’s Troops First Foundation, which is running the project. Troops First offers a number of programs aimed at supporting returning veterans, and for the past four years has participated in Perfect Sense’s pro-am golf tournament, which brings together professional players, veterans, and young people.
The homes are named for Army Sergeant Leroy Petry, who received a Medal of Honor for his bravery during 2008 battle in Afghanistan. Petry had been shot in both legs when a grenade landed near him and two other members of his Ranger helicopter assault force. He grabbed the grenade and threw it just before it exploded, destroying his right hand.
Petry’s “gallant act undeniably saved his fellow Rangers from being severely wounded or killed,” says the official medal citation. After seeing the positive effect he’s had on warriors and their families, it was a perfect tie-in.
The injury wasn’t the end of Petry’s service. Outfitted with a prosthetic hand, he re-joined the 75th Ranger Regiment as a liaison officer for the U.S. Special Operations Command Care Coalition-Northwest Region in Fort Benning, Georgia, before retiring in 2014. In that post, he helped other injured service members and their families.
As he recovered, Petry thought if he could no longer go into battle and “capture bad guys,” he told the graduating class at the College of William and Mary in 2014, “then I want to do the next best thing, and that is taking care of the ones who are … and their families. I didn’t recover alone, and wanted to do all that I could to make it easier on others.”
The Village of Honor continues that endeavor. It’s one of many public and private efforts to support a population with diverse needs; nonprofits such as Troops First and the Wounded Warrior Project are often bolstered by donations of money and goods from companies such as The Home Depot, Under Armour and Walmart.
No family’s experience is typical, Kell notes: “If you’re working with 5,000 wounded warriors you need to be prepared with 5,000 solutions.”
Kell says Troops First envisioned the Village of Honor as a place where families could thrive on common ground, sharing experiences and supporting each other. Naming the village for Petry highlights how much he continues to give after becoming one of the relatively few living Medal of Honor recipients.
“Leroy is a personal friend,” says Kell of the village’s name. “After seeing the positive effect he’s had on warriors and their families, it was a perfect tie-in.”