WAVE 3 talks to Medal of Honor recipients Leroy Petry and Kentucky's Dakota Meyer
Sgt. Dakota Meyer pours a glass of water for Ssgt. Leroy Petry at the Galt House in downtown Louisville on September 29, 2011.
Sgt. Dakota Meyer
Staff Sgt. Leroy Petry
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Hundreds packed the plaza of KFC Yum! Center Thursday night for a glimpse of American heroes; 54 of the living 85 Medal of Honor recipients continue their convention in Louisville, signing autographs and speaking to schools.
Their evening wrapped up with a variety show inside the arena called Tribute to American Valor. Before that, WAVE 3 News got a chance to sit down with two of the most recent medal of honor recipients.
"It's overwhelming, I'm a Marine sniper not a celebrity," said Sgt. Dakota Meyer of Kentucky.
"There is no above and beyond on the call of duty you're just doing what you have to do," said Staff Sgt. Leroy Petry.
The two were honored earlier this year in the nation's capital.
"The only time you get the people you want in one room is usually at your funeral and you're not there to enjoy it but it was a great opportunity to have all those people there with me," Petry said.
"I asked for a Bud Light and I guess because of the budget cut they had to brew their own beer but I gave my bottle back because they wanted to get the five cents," Meyer joked.
Meyer said that beer with the President came with a casual conversation.
"I asked him, 'you're 23 years old you're in my shoes what do you do now' and he said 'you've got to get an education that's the number one thing and don't make any rash decision,'" Meyer said.
For Petry, coming home from Afghanistan meant coming home without his arm after a grenade exploded as he threw it away from his group.
"If I do a hard contraction it does a whole 360 rotation," Petry said as he showed his hand making a full non-stop circle.
"There are two sensors built in the forearm and it picks up muscle movement, you can see the twitches there it opens and closes off the same muscles it would open and close my hand normally," Petry explained.
During the conversation, the two laughed and joked with each other. While the bonds they share during this trip will grow, they say they are still haunted by the moments that made their distinction.
"I don't understand," said Meyer. "I went to Afghanistan with a team. I came back without a team and the day I went in there my objective was to bring my team out alive or die trying and neither one of them happened and now I'm standing here being recognized with the highest award in the United States of America and they are putting me on a pedestal and everyone wants to talk about it but for failing my guys."
"There's not a minute that goes by that I don't think about the people who still have boots on the ground over there on what they're doing every day," Petry said.
As for the future, Meyer wants to be a New York City firefighter, which he said has been a goal ever since 9/11. He missed the application deadline, but officials decided to open it back up for him.
"They opened it up for me but they weren't going to open it up for everyone else and I don't expect any special privileges just because I went and did my job because I have a medal of honor," Meyer said. "If would have opened for everyone he would have applied.
Meyer said he's learned to be positive, saying the haunting memories are at time difficult to comprehend.
"My whole team was killed and I don't think that's ever going to be anything you ever get over but it's something you've got to accept and you have to take the negative and turn it into something positive because we could all sit around here and feel sorry for ourselves. Its kind of like in football my coach used to tell me you got to keep your feet moving and that's how it is you're going to have hard days you're going to have good days but I've got four names on my wrist and if I don't give everything I do every single day I'm failing them," Meyer said.
Meyer has started a scholarship for children of servicemen or women who are injured in the line of duty and may not be able to attend college.
"That's what paves the road to success and if we want to get America out of poverty and rise America up we've got to start educating our children and set them up for success and I don't think there should be any child in America that has to suffer for going to school because their parents sacrificed so much for the USA," Meyer said.
On meeting with the President, Meyer said it was an unforgettable moment.
"You throw your politics out you throw your beliefs out whatever your view is as an American everyone has them but you throw it all out at the end of the day he's the President of the United States," he said.
Petry meanwhile has gone to work as a liaison for wounded soldiers.
Their visit is part of the annual Medal of Honor convention, which is being held in Louisville the time around. The convention wraps up Saturday after a breakfast along Millionaire's Row at Churchill Downs.
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