Matthew Scherrer ’01 first heard about Leroy Petry in 2008, shortly after the wounded Army sergeant picked up and threw a live enemy grenade during a firefight in eastern Afghanistan. The valiant act saved at least two U.S. soldiers. It also cost Petry his right hand.
Scherrer, like Petry, had served in the Second Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Since 2007, the Princeton ROTC alumnus has been a board member of the Second Ranger Battalion Assistance Foundation, created by Scherrer’s father, Richard, and Mark Wilkins, the brother of a Ranger officer. The fund provides immediate, short-term assistance to help wounded soldiers and their families, often paying for flights to Germany, where many receive treatment. “It’s always upsetting when we have to put the money to work,” Scherrer said, “but it’s very satisfying to be able to help in a small way.”
Scherrer contacted Petry at the Brooks Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, to offer the foundation’s resources, helping Petry’s wife and four children to visit more frequently. The two men became friends and stayed in touch as Petry returned to work as a liaison officer for the U.S. Special Operations Command Care Coalition.
Then, a few months ago, Scherrer received a text message from Petry, asking for the full names and Social Security numbers of the foundation’s leaders and the donors who had helped his family. Scherrer thought it a bit unusual but sent along the information. In a follow-up message, Petry explained that he was receiving the Medal of Honor and wanted his friends from the foundation to join him at the White House.
“Obviously, we were all floored by it,” said Scherrer, who joined Petry and his family at the ceremony July 12.
In the four years after his graduation, Scherrer served four tours as a Ranger platoon leader – two in Afghanistan and two in Iraq – before returning to the States and earning his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. He now works in private equity in St. Louis, Mo., but he has maintained close ties to his former battalion.
Army Ranger units are unique among the military’s special forces, Scherrer said, because they include junior enlisted soldiers who are exposed to the same risks as more senior colleagues but lack some of the financial resources. Since its inception in 2004, the Second Ranger Battalion Assistance Foundation has raised about $350,000 and has distributed $125,000 to some 30 soldiers and their families. Board members pride themselves on being responsive to those in need. When the unit is deployed, Scherrer said, “We have our cell phones on 24 hours a day.”
Scherrer, who recently returned to campus for his 10th reunion, said that many Princeton ROTC graduates who have retired from the military maintain similar bonds, volunteering with groups like the Wounded Warrior Project.
“It’s a very small part of Princeton,” he said of the ROTC alumni community, “but for those folks, it’s a very powerful set of experiences.”
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