He was awarded for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity. But Master Sgt. Donny Petty says he was just doing his job.
Petty, 37, of Richlands, was awarded the nation’s third highest valorous award on Monday. He received the Silver Star for “bold initiative, undaunted courage and complete dedication to duty,” according to the Silver Star citation, for his actions as a team leader with Marine Special Operations Team 8214 of Marine Special Operations Command on Nov. 1, 2012, when his team was ambushed during a deliberate detention operation in Afghanistan.
Eighteen months later, and Petty’s take is simple: “I am definitely not a hero,” he said. “I was just doing my job, trying to make sure everybody comes home. That’s the biggest award a guy can get, is bringing your Marines home.”
Petty says it’s his team that is deserving of the award.
“It’s not so much an individual thing, it’s a team thing, and this is the best group of guys I have ever worked with,” he said. “They deserve this, not me. It wasn’t just Donny Petty out there saving the world, it was our team.”
During the firefight with the enemy, Petty, according to the citation, maneuvered through “a hail of gunfire to suppress the enemy fighting position” and exposed himself to the enemy from a rooftop in order to throw a grenade at their position. He then directed the placement of an explosive breach on the outer wall of a building, allowing his element to clear the area.
“I’m a little embarrassed I got (the Silver Star) because I would have been fine not getting anything,” Petty said. “I’m truly honored to get it, truly honored. Not too many people get them. It’s an important deal.”
The citation credits his “stalwart control” and disregard for his personal safety for the team’s capture of the insurgent leader they were sent to detain. Ninety percent of what happened on that day, Petty said, was because of luck and the other 10 percent was relying on the training his team had received prior to their deployment. Natural instincts, he said, take over, and he was lucky his guys made good decisions.
“I’m a quiet guy and I like to keep to myself,” Petty said. “Hearing the citation be read aloud was truly humbling. I just want to thank my team, ‘Thank you for doing your job,’ and they should know that I am extremely proud of them.
“They went above and beyond as well.”