The end of the Bakersfield Business Conference’s program is reserved for special guests, and this year featured a triple dose with a military twist.
The first surprise guest was Leroy Petry, a Medal of Honor winner who was wounded in both legs by gunfire during his seventh deployment as an Army Ranger to Afghanistan in 2011.
Despite the injury, he continued to give orders to his troops and even saved two of their lives when he grabbed a live grenade and threw it away from them. He lost his hand in the process.
As Petry waved with an artificial hand on stage Saturday, thousands of American flags distributed to the audience flew.
“I was faced with a big challenge,” Petry said. “I thought my life of rangering was over. It took me a long time to realize my life would go on, and I leaned on my peers and leaders to learn that.”
The second guest was Army Capt. Dan Quinn, who disobeyed Army policy by confronting an Afghan forces commander he knew was using an Afghan child as a sex slave.
Quinn threatened the Afghan officer and eventually beat him but eventually got his message across. The Army wasn’t amused, reprimanded Quinn and essentially ended his career, but Quinn said he had no regrets.
“If I was put in the same situation again, I would have made the same decision 100 times,” Quinn said.
The third surprise guest was Capt. Richard Phillips, the subject of a recent Tom Hanks movie, “Captain Phillips.”
Phillips was captured by Somali pirates in 2009 in the Indian Ocean and escaped a harrowing situation with the help of Navy SEALS.
Phillips was adamant that though he is introduced as a hero, he considers the military members who saved him and others who served as the true heroes.
“I was just a guy who got caught,” Phillips said.