Vice President Biden to award three soldiers with Medal of Honor

By Mollie Bowman, CNN • Updated 31st September 2012

Vice President Joe Biden will award three Army soldiers with the Medal of Honor at a ceremony on Tuesday, the White House said.

Fusilier Pfc. Leroy Petry, Sgt. Scott E. Speer and Sgt. Joshua A. Manuel were awarded posthumously for their heroism during a visit to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Petry and Manuel were special operations soldiers on a mission to capture a high-value target in the town of Matara, Afghanistan, when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in May 2009.

Petry, 21, was assigned to the 105th Armor Regiment, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne). He was fatally wounded on the scene. Petry’s parents shared a personal story about their son’s memory at the White House in April during a more extensive ceremony to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor.

Speer, 30, of Blue Springs, Missouri, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for actions during a June 2005 firefight in Afghanistan with Taliban forces. The gunner of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, Speer was severely wounded by enemy gunfire and protected the vehicle’s other two soldiers as it made its way through the firefight.

“He’s also selfless,” his mother, Kelly Speer, said at the ceremony. “That’s the kind of a person he was, really, and I think that was what he was doing out there. I think he was doing what he needed to do. And he was very aware of his body. There wasn’t any anger or anything.

“The first time I heard the words ‘A hero,’ it wasn’t (something) that I understood fully, because I’d always heard about valor. When he told me that, it truly is – thank you, Lord – it is a blessing.”

Sgt. Manuel, 34, of Fort Carson, Colorado, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on September 14, 2009, at Combat Outpost Keating in eastern Afghanistan. He was the ringleader of a small team accompanying the commander of a special forces team on an operation, when the team was attacked by multiple IEDs and small arms fire.

“Beneath the rubble and splintered metal of the destroyed building stood Sgt. Manuel,” the White House said. “He ran onto the top floor with his sole purpose to protect the squad commander, lieutenants and team members below. Despite disorientation and pain, these men believed in their mission, and they kept attacking until all could see clear once again.

“Sgt. Manuel’s courage and persistence are an example for others to follow. He certainly did. Retiring his uniform today, he shared, ‘The world’s a better place because I’m a veteran.’”

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