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Medal of Honor recipient Petry defends Trump’s firing of Vindman

Medal of Honor recipient Army Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry describes the combat action of May 26, 2008, near Paktya, Afghanistan, in which he saved the lives of two fellow Rangers. Petry lost his hand in the 2008 fight, but now uses a state-of-the-art prosthesis. (DOD photo by R.D. Ward/Released)
February 10, 2020

Retired U.S. Army Master Sergeant Leroy Petry, a Medal of Honor recipient, publicly criticized Lt. Col Alexander Vindman and defended President Donald Trump’s decision to fire him in a “Fox & Friends” appearance on Sunday morning.

Petry suggested Trump was within his rights to remove Vindman from the White House National Security Council (NSC) after Vindman provided testimony supporting Democratic efforts to impeach Trump. Though Vindman has been regarded as a key witness who furthered allegations that Trump inappropriately pressured his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, Petry criticized Vindman for ignoring the chain of command.

“I respect Donald Trump’s actions on escorting him out of the White House because he, as a team player, he should have brought it up through the chain of command and then blown the whistle if it didn’t get approved,” Petry began. “So, exactly my insight is, I would have fired him too, I can’t trust you on my team, if you can’t bring me things you don’t agree with.”

While Vindman has received some praise for his military service and his decision to testify against Trump, Petry said Vindman is not a hero.

“I respect his service, I understand he is Purple Heart recipient,” Petry said. “Being a Purple Heart recipient doesn’t make somebody a hero. I’m sorry.”

Petry himself is a combat-wounded veteran. He lost his hand in combat in Afghanistan in 2008 when he saved his fellow U.S. Army Rangers attempting to throw back an enemy grenade.

Petry, who knows some of the same soldiers that trained with Vindman in Ranger school, also pointed personal criticism against Vindman’s military career. Petry revealed that many of Vindman’s peers in Ranger training tried to have him “peered out,” meaning they voted against him graduating from the training school.

“In ranger school, [they] said he couldn’t be trusted. They tried peering him out. They said, ‘Well, I guess it hasn’t changed much,'” Petry said.

In particular, Petry said Vindman’s fellow Ranger school classmates accused him of being a “chow thief” and a “spotlighter.”

“Usually folks that try to make a big statue of something, what we call spotlighters in the military, trying to highlight themselves as a hero or doing something great, and you could do something great just doing your job,” Petry said.

In his testimony before Congress, Vindman said he felt a “sense of duty” to testify and that, having lived in the former Soviet Union, he believed the testimony he came to provide against Trump would have made him subject to deadly reprisal. Vindman also wore his military uniform and insisted on being referred to by his rank during his testimony.

Fox host Pete Hegseth, himself an Army veteran, translated Petry’s comments on air. To be a “chow thief” is to hoard food when it is otherwise limited to those going through training.

“When there is limited food, you’re taking some so you can have some and your buddies don’t,” Hegseth said.

Hegseth explained that a “spotlighter” is someone who tries to make the appearance of doing a good job when they know they are being watched, but who may otherwise slack off when the “spotlight” is no longer on them.

Trump defended his decision to fire Vindman, claiming concerns about Vindman’s judgment, including claims he ignored the chain of command and was responsible for leaking information.

Vindman’s lawyer, David Pressman, characterized Vindman’s firing as an act of “revenge” by Trump.

“The truth has cost LTC Alexander Vindman his job, his career and his privacy,” Pressman said. “He did what any member of our military is charged with doing every day: he followed orders, he obeyed his oath, and he served his country even when doing so was fraught with danger and personal peril.”