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Washington State Medal of Honor Ceremony

Etched in stone

Most recent JBLM Medal of Honor recipients have their names added to state monument

Published: 02:25PM April 10th, 2014

OLYMPIA — When Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A. Petry stood in front of the Medal of Honor memorial at the Washington state Capitol as his name was revealed, along with those of Staff Sgt. Ty Carter and Capt. William D. Swenson, he didn’t focus on his own name.

Rather, he kept his eyes on the 88 names representing Washington Medal of Honor recipients who served in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and other branches dating back to the Civil War.

“Those were my heroes growing up and they’re still my heroes today,” Petry said.

In front of their peers in the active duty service, veterans and local government officials, three service members who served at Joint Base Lewis-McChord were honored as recent Medal of Honor recipients April 2 in the state Capitol’s rotunda.

Since its dedication in November 1976, the 11-foot tall granite monument recognized service members from Washington state who received the highest honor of military personnel.

Petry, Carter and Swenson are the first names to be etched in the monument’s stone since April 2007 when Maj. Bruce P. Crandall — who was one of many past recipients to attend — was added for his service during the Vietnam War.

“The entire 6.5 million (population) are proud of you and proud you call Washington your home,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

While each were serving with different units in different parts of Afghanistan, all did everything they could to help their fellow Soldiers wounded in action. Many times, they put their own safety aside and ran through waves of fire from grenades, missiles and machine guns.

Petry was honored for fighting through shrapnel wounds to both legs and losing his right hand while throwing a grenade away from his fellow Soldiers in the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment during a 2008 combat operation.

Carter assisted several wounded Soldiers of the Bravo Troop, 3-61 Cavalry, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division at the time of the deadly attacks on Combat Outpost Keating October 2009 in the Kamdesh district.

As an Afghan Border Police advisor in support of 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Swenson assisted in the medical evacuation of several of his comrades during the 2009 Battle of Ganjgal.

Swenson said the medals each recipient wears recognizes the capabilities of every service member.

“Nobody wants the opportunity to present itself,” Swenson said. “It’s a privilege and a burden simultaneously, but it is something that everyone is capable of doing.”

Those who are awarded the Medal of Honor become representatives of the United States military and often educate and inform people to gather support for veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, lost limbs and other injuries.

Not only do they rally for support from the local community, but also from current active duty and those who plan to enlist in the future.

Petry, who is now a liaison for the U.S. Special Operations Command Care Coalition — Northwest Region, said all service members should continue to take care of each other and continue to set the example.

“Eventually, we all leave the service and become veterans,” Petry said.

Just like Petry and Swenson, Carter has represented the military as a Medal of Honor recipient at several events educating people and removing any stigmas of Soldiers with PTSD.

“Maybe I can save some lives telling people my story and allowing them to have hope through my pain and triumph,” Carter said.