EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Retired U.S. Army Master Sgt. Leroy Petry, a Medal of Honor recipient, visited service members in Alaska to speak about his time as a Ranger, his Medal of Honor and the importance of using mental health resources available to all military members.
On July 26, 2018, Petry visited Eielson to share his personal experiences about what his life was like after losing his right hand while throwing away a detonating grenade from his comrades in Afghanistan.
During his presentation, he stressed the importance of service members looking out for one another and reaching out those around them to make sure they’re okay. He heavily emphasized that it’s the responsibility of Airmen to care of one another.
“I went to a Department of Defense and Veteran’s Affairs suicide prevention convention and I found out that we have all the resources under the sun to help everyone,” said Petry. “The problem is that a lot of people don’t know where to find those resources. They think they’re isolated. So the question is, how do we find these people when they’re sitting at home alone?”
Petry said it can be as simple as giving them a call to ask how they’re doing, or stopping by and checking on them, making sure they’re doing okay.
He reminded Airmen about the services offered to military members and their families, and how important it is that we take advantage of them.
“A lot of times [people] have so much pride that we put on a mask and tell everyone that things are great,” said Petry. “When I lost my hand, I knew I’d never be able to go back to being a ranger; I couldn’t jump out of planes or fast rope out of helicopters. I [had] to talk to a lot of friends, a lot of people I trusted and some of my care providers. I knew a lot of [what was talked about] is kept secret, so I didn’t feel bad talking to them. In fact, I talk to three psychologists now.”
By speaking to military members on these topics, Petry hopes to challenge the stigma that seeking mental health assistance is harmful to a service member’s career.
“I think what Sgt. Petry is doing is helping to change what people think of mental health,” said Staff Sgt. Morgan Dougherty, the 354th Medical Group Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment program noncommissioned officer in charge. “Many people think that young Airmen are the most at risk category and they need the most help. But NCOs, senior NCOs and officers also need it. One of the things he showed was that you’re able to use mental health services regardless of your rank and still go back to work once you’ve been helped.”
Through his speaking engagements, Petry strives to improve the lives of military members, their families and veterans alike by encouraging them to reach out to help people around them and also to reach out for help when they need it.