"...this year, the most important person in the room was Congressional Medal of Honor winner Army Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A. Petry"
The Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Fe held their annual Christmas Gala at the Bishop's Lodge Ranch Resort and Spa on December 21, and I was so privileged to be able to attend this event for such a worthy Santa Fe cause.
The Bishop's Lodge is a breathtaking venue just a few minutes from the downtown Plaza. A resort and spa, it is named for French missionary priest Jean Baptiste Lamy, the first Archbishop of New Mexico. The property consists of buildings nestled in a hilltop. During the Christmas season, the pink-hued adobe at dusk, topped with traditional farolitos, is an awe-inspiring sight.
The celebration was all about the children of Santa Fe. The ball room of Bishop's Lodge was decorated in the rich red hues of Chistmas. There were political dignitaries and contributors everywhere you looked and the dinner was scrumptious. And Santa put in an inevitable appearance, handing out toys and bags of delicious candy. This is Santa's season and if he decides to make the party, you can bet all attention is generally on him. But this year, the most important person in the room was Congressional Medal of Honor winner Army Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A. Petry.
Petry, an alumnus of the Boys and Girls clubs of Santa Fe, is the City Different's very own hometown hero. While in Afghanistan, Sgt. Petry lost his hand in a heroic grenade incident. He now sports an amazing bionic hand which I was privileged to shake. The feel of his hand is a touch I will never forget.
Afghanistan is a word to most of us. Of course, if you have a loved one in the military you are more intimately acquainted with events in that far away country but I would venture to guess many people would be hard pressed to find it on a map, and only associate it with newspaper headlines and a CNN crawler. Petry makes it real. A handsome and devoted family man, it's hard to imagine the smiling face that I see tonight with the pain, terror and trauma he and his family have endured. He wears a dark blue uniform jacket covered with honors and medals. The Purple Heart hangs closely about his neck. So obviously a hero.
When I met Petry, I saw the future of New Mexico. Something very genuine and caring exudes from him. There is a special aura about him that is evident to anyone who approaches him. I saw a man of intense integrity and honesty. A man who cares deeply about his family, his state and his country.
I sat with Petry's family and they told stories of a brother whom they obviously admire. They spoke of his sense of humor and his bravery. His mother's eyes as he received his Senate Proclamation were full of the pride of a mother, a look that is without question something every mother hopes shows while looking at her son.
Sculptor George Rivera, the governor of Pojoaque Pueblo, is donating his time to create an interactive eight-foot bronze statue of Petry that will eventually stand in Santa Fe. It was a night of inspiration, pride, mariachis, and interesting people. I even got to sit on Santa's lap.