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Thread: Marine could still get medal
09-20-09, 08:51 AM #1
Marine could still get medal
September 20, 2009
Marine could still get medal
By William Cole
President Obama on Thursday posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military recognition, to a Massachusetts soldier who died in Afghanistan trying to save a wounded comrade.
Staff Sgt. Jared C. Monti, a team leader with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division, died in Nuristan province on June 21, 2006.
It was a reminder of a Medal of Honor not received in the case of a Hawai'i Marine, Sgt. Rafael Peralta. It is a cause that fellow Marines refuse to give up on.
At least four Marines with Peralta on Nov. 15, 2004, in Fallujah, Iraq, have stated in written reports that they saw the short and stocky Marine nicknamed "Rafa" pull a grenade to his body after it had bounced into a room, saving the lives of others in the process.
The 25-year-old was with the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment out of Kane'ohe Bay.
A Medal of Honor recommendation for Peralta made it through examinations by the Marine Corps, U.S. Central Command and the Department of the Navy before being rejected by five individuals appointed in an unusual move by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates to review the nomination.
Questions were raised as to whether Peralta, who was hit in the head by a friendly fire gunshot, had the mental capacity to knowingly reach out and cradle the grenade.
A Navy Cross citation given instead to Peralta's mother, Rosa, states that an Iraqi grenade came to rest near her son's head.
"Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, Sgt. Peralta reached out and pulled the grenade to his body, absorbing the brunt of the blast and shielding fellow Marines only feet away," the citation states, in apparent contradiction to the Medal of Honor finding.
George Sabga, a California attorney and retired Marine master gunnery sergeant who has acted as a go-between for the Peralta family, said he's still seeking a Medal of Honor for Peralta.
"You wouldn't believe how this has affected the Marines," Sabga said. "It hasn't been diminished by the passage of time. It's still there."
Peralta was a Mexican immigrant from California who joined the corps right after getting his green card. But mostly, those who still fight for his Medal of Honor just see him as a fellow Marine.
Sabga said a Marine named Justin who helped recover Peralta's body in Iraq recently went to a town hall health care meeting in Colorado and asked his congressman, "Why wasn't Peralta given the Medal of Honor?"
Sabga said a prominent gunshot wound forensic expert has agreed to review the Peralta case evidence.
"I still have a good feeling about (a Medal of Honor for Peralta)," Sabga said. "It'll take a little bit of time."
IN LOVING MEMORY OF MY LATE HUSBAND, SSgt Roger A. Alfano, USMC
ONE PROUD MARINE
Once a Marine...Always a Marine
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