We're not lost, Sergeant, We're in … France


Ten miles in their shoes

This past weekend, my lovely wife, Melissa, ran in the Army Ten-Miler. She did it in honor of her father, COL Richard Henderson, and carried his St Christopher medal and dogtag, both of which he carried through his two tours in Viet Nam. Over the last mile, when her muscles were betraying her and the end of the race seemed so far, she gripped his icons in her hand and toughed it out, just as her father would have. Ten miles in his shoes.

We went to a restuarant in Arlington for lunch with her mother and couldn’t help but notice several runners come in together all wearing the same distinctive t-shirt. On the back, it had the silhouette of a soldier carrying his rifle, with Sgt Andrew C Nicol’s name.

Photo of Sgt Nicol's funeral, a wooden casket carried by Ranger pallbearersI was curious and had my smartphone with me. So, I quickly searched and found him listed on the Military Times Hall of Valor. Sgt Nichol had been killed by an IED in Afghanistan during his fifth combat deployment. He’d graduated from Exeter High School in 2006, joined the Army and quickly found his niche in the Rangers. In five short years, he deployed five times.

He was a wrestler in high school and the kind that never gives up. His coach related a story of a semi-final match that Nicol was losing badly on points that he won by pinning his opponent in the final seconds. He could also kid around with his friends and teammates, known for his crooked smile and his imitation of Seinfield’s Kramer. Like all Ranger sergeants, he was a leader, tasked with leading a team of up to 40 men when he died. He was awarded his second Bronze Star posthumously.

After we finished our meal, I stopped by to chat with the group. His father, Roland, and his sister both talked about running for him and pointed out that another in their group had a brother who’d been killed overseas as well. I’m an emotional guy, so mostly what I was able to choke out was that I was sorry for their loss and grateful for his service. Melissa and her mother also spoke about Dick’s service and Melissa’s run.

The A Team ranked 24th in the “All Comers” team category, running ten miles in Sgt Nicol’s shoes.

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SFC Leroy Petry, Medal of Honor

When you walk through the bunkers at Pointe du Hoc, or look down the cliffs, or notice how intact the bunkers are after thousands of bombs and 67 years, you wonder how it could ever have been taken. Colonel Rudder led 225 men of the 2nd Ranger Battalion up the cliffs and into the bunkers. Where do we find men such as these?

In Sante Fe, New Mexico, Steven Drysdale and his cousin, Leroy Petry, were inseperable. As boys do, they fought each other occasionally, but “Everybody liked Leroy. He was always smiling, laughing, bonding with people.” Petry wanted to join the Army since he was seven years old. After Steven joined the Army and became a Ranger, Leroy followed suit.

On Memorial Day, 2008, near Paktia, Afghanistan, Sergeant First Class Leroy Petry, of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, and another Ranger advanced into the courtyard of a compound in Afghanistan and came under fire. During the fight, after Petry had already been shot through both legs, a grenade was tossed near Petry and his comrades. He moved to it and picked it up to toss it away, thinking, “It was probably going to kill all three of us. I had time to visually see the hand grenade. And I figure it’s got about a four-and-half second fuse, depending on how long it has been in the elements and the weather and everything and how long the pin has been pulled. I figure if you have time to see it you have time to kick it, throw it, just get it out there.”

Petry was wrong about the time on the fuse, but right in his instincts. Unfortunately, when the grenade exploded, it amputated his right hand. He put a tourniquet on himself, reported his wound and continued to communicate until they had eliminated the opposition.

Petry has reenlisted and plans a long career in the Army, helping other servicemembers who have lostt limbs readapt to society.

I guess we find these men on playgrounds in New Mexico, in the streets of New York, the hills of Tennessee or just about anywhere you search in this great country of ours.




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