SANTA FE (KRQE) - Leroy Petry's heroic destiny was not always clear.
Petry was shy kid who didn't like big crowds and found comfort hanging out with his cousin. But back when he was a student at Santa Fe High School in the mid-1990s, he got into trouble for fighting and skipping classes.
In fact, the teen was close to flunking out of school when his father knew he had to make a move or he might lose his son.
"A lot of times when kids have no interest, they feel like they're not wanted," said Larry Petry.
So Larry Petry took his son out of Santa Fe High and enrolled him in St. Catherine's Indian School, also located in Santa Fe.
"Once he got there I think he found a home," Petry said. "Maybe it was God telling us to take him to St. Catherine's Indian School. Maybe someone guided us that way."
St. Catherine's Principal Sister Patrick Marie Dempsey was among the staff that zeroed in on Leroy Petry. They didn't let him slack off, she said. They pushed him and made him believe in himself.
"We wanted them to succeed," Marie said. "We wanted them to be the very best they could be. I think we helped Leroy with that."
Larry Petry said his strategy worked. His son buckled down and turned his life around.
Leroy Petry not only graduated from St. Catherine's – he was part of the school's final graduating class in 1998 before it closed -- but the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce gave him a Bootstrap Award. It's given to students who finish school despite challenging circumstances.
Leroy Petry then attended New Mexico Highlands University for about a year before following his cousin into the Army. Three years later came his ultimate test.
It was Memorial Day weekend 2008 and Leroy Petry found himself in Afghanistan's Paktia Province. He came under fire with his fellow Army Rangers and was shot through both legs. That's when an insurgent threw a grenade over a wall. Leroy Petry grabbed it and just as he tossed it back, it exploded and blew off his right hand.
He is credited with saving at least three of his fellow soldiers' lives.
Leroy Petry now been fitted with a prosthetic arm and hand.
But Leroy Petry's limitation didn't slow him down. After spending time with his wife and young son, he re-enlisted in the Army and went back to Afghanistan. His family and friends say he's humbled to receive the Medal of Honor, the highest award an American service member can get.
"I think deep inside, I know he knows it is a big deal, not for himself so much, but for all the men and women who serve over there," Marie said.
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