The family of a Marine killed eight years ago this month may receive the answer to a dispute concerning whether he deserves America’s highest military honor, according to a report by The Los Angeles Times.
The Marine Corps nominated Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta from San Diego, Calif. for the Medal of Honor. However, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates downgraded the award to the Navy Cross in 2008. Gates based his decision on the conclusion that Peralta, who suffered a head wound, was not conscious when his body smothered a grenade in Iraq in 2004, saving other Marines.
The change upset both the Marines and Peralta’s family.
The 25-year-old Mexican immigrant died in Iraq during the battle for Fallouja, which The Los Angeles Times describes as “the bloodiest house-to-house fighting involving Marines since Vietnam.”
The newspaper states Gates’ successor, Leon Panetta, may announce the result of his review concerning Gates’ decision shortly, which will be based on a video about the aftermath of the fatal mission. Medal of Honor decisions are some of the most closely held secrets in the U.S. military.
The Marines that were with Peralta that day stated that while the Marine lay mortally wounded, he still reached out and smothered an enemy grenade, saving the lives of several other soldiers. Rep. Duncan Hunter, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Marine officer, believes the new film shows Peralta’s body did not have consistent bruises matching the pathologist’s views of how Peralta died.
Hunter previously stated his office obtained information that was not available to military investigators, proving Peralta should not have been disqualified for the Medal of Honor. Hunter spokesman, Joe Kasper, stated the video of the battle action as well as a report by a forensic pathologist proves Peralta was conscious and intentionally pulled the grenade under his body.
Hunter states the Defense Department’s conclusion contradicts the Marine Corps’ report and accounts of seven witnesses who saw Peralta pull the grenade to himself.
“The only reasonable course of action, light of his sacrifice and new evidence, is to award (Peralta) the military’s highest award for combat valor,” said Hunter, who has been urging Panetta to review Gates’ decision.
Hunter believes Panetta’s decision will be announced within weeks.