View Full Version : SecDef Gates rejects request to upgrade Peralta's valor award

11-19-08, 07:38 PM
SecDef Gates rejects request to upgrade Peralta's valor award
By Steve Liewer
San Diego Union Tribune
November 19, 2008

SAN DIEGO — Defense Secretary Robert Gates has rejected a request by several members of Congress to upgrade the valor award for Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta, the late Iraq war hero from San Diego.

The legislators had appealed to President Bush for intervention after the military denied Peralta the top award for combat bravery in September. Peralta received a posthumous Navy Cross, which is second to the Medal of Honor.

Gates announced his decision to not conduct further reviews in a letter dated Tuesday.

Peralta, a Marine, died Nov. 15, 2004 during house-to-house combat in Fallujah, Iraq. After being wounded by a friendly-fire bullet in the back of his head, he grabbed an enemy grenade that landed next to him and pulled it to his chest, according to members of his team who were there.

Peralta's act is credited with saving the lives of six Marines. His superiors in the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment nominated him for the Medal of Honor. The nomination won approval from the Marine Corps, U.S. Central Command and the Secretary of the Navy.

But Gates noted conflicting forensic evidence that raised the possibility that Peralta may have acted unconsciously in smothering the grenade. He made the unprecedented decision to ask five experts -- a former Army commanding general in Iraq, a Medal of Honor recipient, a neurosurgeon and two pathologists -- to analyze the evidence. They unanimously, and independently, recommended against the Medal of Honor, Gates said.

Navy Secretary Donald Winter then awarded Peralta the Navy Cross.

The decision outraged many Marines and Peralta's family members, who have said they may reject the award. California's two senators, its five House members from the San Diego area and other legislators wrote a letter to Bush asking him to reconsider the military's decision.

In his Tuesday letter, Gates said: “The five independent reviewers each individually concluded that the evidence did not meet the exacting 'no doubt'standard necessary to support award of the (Medal of Honor). After careful consideration, I concurred with this conclusion. Further, given the reviews already conducted, I do not believe further review is necessary.”

The decision wasn't surprising given Gates' previously stated position, said George Sabga, a lawyer, former Marine and close friend of the Peralta family.

Sabga said he is working with other Marines in Peralta's unit to gather video footage taken during the house battle in which Peralta died. He believes the film will bolster arguments for awarding the Medal of Honor.

“To me, the video is just critical,” Sabga said. “I personally feel this is going to be overturned, because there really is no doubt.”

Time for a new SecDef, eh?

Gunner 0313
11-19-08, 08:47 PM
:flag: Unfriggin believable !!! As if there isn't enough negative sh*t going on today and Peralta gets denied the CMH. I thought for sure that it was a slam dunk. Gates has made my top 5 list, being 2nd only to BO. Did that make the MSM today ?

11-20-08, 12:14 AM
To me, I think that the Marines with him should ultimately decide if he gets the Medal of Honor or not. Afterall, they were the only eyewitnesses and they were the only ones who truly knew what happened that day. It's a shame that such a hero gave his life in order to save his fellow brothers but his valor isn't truly recognized because a bureaucrat believes that he doesn't warrant the medal. Whether his actions were conscious or not, the fact of the matter is that Sgt. Peralta saved the lives of several Marines at the cost of his own life and that's all that should matter.

11-20-08, 04:51 AM
DoD reaffirms Peralta Navy Cross decision
The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Nov 19, 2008 22:07:10 EST

SAN DIEGO — The Department of Defense reaffirmed its decision Wednesday not to award the Medal of Honor to a San Diego Marine who witnesses say threw himself on a grenade to save his colleagues in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004.

Rep. Duncan Hunter and other politicians appealed to instead award Sgt. Rafael Peralta the Navy Cross, the second-highest medal the Navy can bestow for valor.

Peralta’s nomination was tainted by reports he was wounded by friendly fire shortly before an insurgent lobbed the grenade, but eyewitnesses described how the mortally wounded Marine deliberately grabbed the grenade and pulled it to his chest to protect fellow troops from the blast.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said five independent experts — three medical doctors, a general and a Medal of Honor recipient — reviewed the forensic evidence and unanimously found it did not meet the required standard, because they could not be sure he acted deliberately.

California’s senators and five San Diego area representatives wrote to President Bush, asking him to reconsider the decision and recognize Peralta’s sacrifice to his comrades and his country.

“Intentionally absorbing a grenade blast to protect one’s comrades in arms has been traditionally recognized by awarding the Medal of Honor,” they wrote.

The family is disappointed but not surprised, because they believe the officials don’t want to admit they made a mistake, said George Sagba, an attorney for Peralta’s family.

Sagba noted the experts did not rule out the possibility that Peralta, who had been shot in the head and upper body during a house-to-house search, could have intentionally reached for the grenade.

Sagba said he is pursuing home video shot by Peralta’s colleagues on the day he died.

“This video can show exactly who was there, the blast fragments, all that stuff,” he said.

Sagba said the family intends to appeal after President-elect Barack Obama appoints a new defense secretary.