Sec. of Defense refuses to grant Medal of Honor to Camp Pendleton Marine; Navy to name a destroyer after Sgt. Rafael Peralta

SAN DIEGO – A congressman said today he was ”beyond disappointed” with the Secretary of Defense’s announcement that a Camp Pendleton Marine killed in action in Iraq will not be awarded the Medal of Honor because doubts exist over whether he was able to take the actions attributed to him.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in a letter to Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R- El Cajon, cited ”stringent” Navy and Defense Department regulations that a Medal of Honor award must carry ”no margin of doubt or possibility of error,” and ”proof beyond a reasonable doubt” that a service member performed the valorous action for which the medal is recommended.

Sgt. Rafael Peralta of San Diego died during a firefight in Fallujah on Nov. 14, 2004. His family has declined the award of a Navy Cross, preferring the higher honor.

Panetta said that while eyewitnesses were mostly consistent, there was ”considerable medical and professional doubt” over whether the sergeant could have pulled a grenade under his body to save other members of his squad because he had already been shot in the head.

Panetta said he relied on opinions from medical examiners, including the one who performed the autopsy, forensic pathologists and other medical professionals, who raised ”more than reasonable doubt.”

Hunter said Peralta was a hero who died protecting his fellow Marines.

”He and his family are an inspiration to me and many others, for their courage, their dedication and their sacrifice,” Hunter said. ”While I vehemently disagree with Secretary Panetta’s decision, I do appreciate the fact that he took the time to personally examine the Peralta case and consider the new evidence that was submitted.”

The congressman said former Defense Secretary Robert Gates ”manufactured the doubt” regarding Peralta by convening forensic experts for the first time on record. He said he would investigate whether Gates had the legal authority to conduct such a review.

Five eyewitnesses confirmed Peralta’s actions, according to Hunter.

The Navy plans to name a destroyer after Peralta.

3 Responses to "Sec. of Defense refuses to grant Medal of Honor to Camp Pendleton Marine; Navy to name a destroyer after Sgt. Rafael Peralta"

  1. Gary Ungricht   December 14, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    Sgt. Peralta, if anyone, deserves the Medal of Honor! He gave his life to save his fellow Marines. He was a brave and courageous young man. He was a REAL hero who deserves to be honored for this unselfish act of sacrifice.

  2. Route 66   December 16, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Would having been awarded the Medal of Honor allowed his spouse or immediate family survivors to receive any additional government compensation as part of the honors accorded awardees? Also, damm…his courage an commitment to engage the enemy with his fellow troops is unquestioned…isn’t the honor of having a US Navy destroyer named in his honor- impressively gracious?

    May he rest (along with 10,000 other dead coalition forces and 5X that gravely permanently wounded, diabled and disfigured others and too many others with PTSD ) in peace in the loving arms of the his (g)God.

    PS-doesn’t a very very SENIOR Navy/Marine officer have to ENDORSE the recommendation forwarding up the chain of command…or, we just paper-chasing/rubber-stamping…just asking…

  3. George   December 16, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Give Sgt. Peralta his medal, he earned it; he gave his life for our country and his comrades. The nit-picking is disgraceful; five eye-witnesses? What is enough? Who, exactly, will be diminished if this medal is awarded?


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