It isn’t often that one has the opportunity to interview a United States Army Ranger, let alone one from Benicia, and one who accompanied his good friend and fellow Ranger, Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry, to Washington DC to receive a Congressional Medal of Honor. Petry is only the second living recipient of the country’s highest award since the Vietnam War.
I recently had a chance to meet with Sgt. 1st Class Patrick McGuire, who was raised in Benicia and enlisted in the army upon graduation from Benicia High School. Although I had not previously met Patrick, I admire his parents. So it wasn’t much of a surprise to learn during our interview that 28-year old Patrick, as he wanted to be called, is extremely polite, deferential and well-spoken. Despite his confession of a wobbly high school experience, he has risen to his current rank and earned many awards and accolades along the way.
It was an interesting meeting. My good friend Jerry Page, recipient of the Silver Star for courage in battle during World War II, wanted to meet Patrick and was able to join us. Patrick was accompanied by his wife of six years, Mindee, and daughters Kylee, 5, and Sophia, 3 ½. Mindee is pregnant with their son, who will be named after his dad, and is due October 30. Patrick will be deployed before Mindee delivers the baby. His deployment lasts four and a half months, the exact location of which is unknown to his family. He then returns to Fort Lewis, Washington for seven months of training (where he is a Ranger instructor) with four weeks of leave: two weeks on the front end and two weeks on the back end. “I avoid the news, and I only know what country he is in,” says Mindee, who is the caller for the Family Readiness Group at Fort Lewis, which supports soldier’s families by helping keep them informed and with social functions.
Patrick is tall, muscular and fit for the special demands of his job. This is his third enlistment (and 6th deployment) to the 75th Ranger Regiment, 2nd Battalion, which is the army’s most elite fighting force. It’s a “highly trained light infantry unit specialized to be employed against any special operations targets.” Patrick is the third platoon’s squad leader of 42 men, a “raid force” seeking HVI’s (High Value Individuals) in the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Rangers generally work at night. “We get in quietly and get out. We keep the population safe,” says Patrick. “If we are careless and don’t protect the locals, we are no better than our enemy.” So when they were woken up in the middle of the day on May 26, 2008, Patrick knew it was for something very important.
In the ensuing raid on the Taliban compound in eastern Afghanistan, launched from four Chinook helicopters, three men in his unit were killed. “I knew two of them really well. We did good that day. We landed outside the house and all hell broke loose—it was a nasty day. The target, definitely a bad dude, got away. But he was caught later.” It was for his extreme courage during that battle that Sgt. Petry was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. While clearing a courtyard, he and PFC Lucas Robinson were fired upon, and were wounded. Petry was hit by a round that went through both his legs. Despite his injuries, Petry led Robinson to the cover of a chicken coop within the compound, where he called in their wounds. They were joined by Sgt. Daniel Higgens, who assessed Petry’s and Robinson’s wounds. When an enemy grenade detonated nearby, Higgens was wounded and Robinson received additional wounds. They were joined by two more Rangers. Another enemy grenade was thrown and knowing the risk to his own life, Petry picked up the grenade and attempted to throw it out of harm’s way. As he released it, it exploded; severing his right hand completely, but his action saved the other men. “Petry tried to stop the bleeding while he continued to call out orders,” said Patrick. “He just kept going, it was very impressive. The sheer courage [of the Rangers] in the face of danger defies logic.”
Petry now wears a prosthetic, as his right arm was amputated below the elbow. Amazingly, his multiple wounds and the loss of his arm didn’t keep Petry from remaining in the army instead of taking a medical discharge. Patrick and Mindee traveled to Washington DC to see their friend receive the Medal. “It was an honor to see our good friend Leroy Petry honored on a national level. He earned that medal.” Patrick has an impressive list of medals, ribbons and badges himself. They include:
– Bronze Star Medal
– Iraqi Campaign Medal—two time recipient
– Afghan Campaign Medal—two time recipient
– Army Achievement Medal—four time recipient
– Army Commendation Medal—four time recipient
– Army Commendation Medal for Valor
– Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal
– Global War on Terror Service Medal
– Good Conduct Medal—three time recipient
– Overseas Service Ribbon—two time recipient
– National Defense Service ribbon
-Combat Infantry Badge
– Master Parachutist Badge
– Non-commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon—three time recipient
– SERE Graduate (Survive, Evade, Resist, Escape)
Patrick made it clear that he lives by the Ranger Creed, and is proud of his accomplishments. But when asked by Jerry about the twelve bracelets on his wrist, Patrick implied what he values more highly. “They bear the names of those [in the Regiment] who have been killed. They are with me always.”