Sgt. Rafael Peralta
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has denied the Navy’s request to give Sgt. Rafael Peralta the Medal of Honor, with the Pentagon telling the Marine hero’s family they were reluctant to overturn a previous secretary’s decision.
Peralta died in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004 while smothering a grenade, saving the lives of the other marines in his squad. Those Marines said Peralta, who’d been shot in the head, scooped the grenade into himself to absorb the blast.
Icela Donald, Peralta’s sister, said the decision was a disappointment — compounded by the lack of a good reason. She said they were told one overriding factor was Mr. Panetta’s reluctance to overturn the decision of former Secretary Robert M. Gates, who had denied the request for the Medal of Honor four years ago.
“That right there just truly made it even worse,” she said. “It’s not that they don’t want to do the right thing, it’s that they don’t want to turn over someone else’s decision.”
A Pentagon spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
In denying the medal before, the Pentagon had questioned the reliability of eyewitnesses, who said Peralta scooped the grenade to him, but disagreed on details such as which hand he had used.
The Pentagon had also pointed to autopsy data that suggested he was likely dead, and probably blinded, from the gunshot to his head, which meant he could not have voluntarily scooped the grenade to him.
“There is no way to reconcile differences in forensic evidence and conflicting testimony of Marines involved,” the Pentagon report said, but it concluded that the forensic evidence created enough “margin of doubt” that the medal could not be issued.
But Peralta’s combat comrades from the firefight, when he took the point as they tried to clear a house of insurgents, say there is no question he deserves the Medal of Honor, given what happened.
As they entered one room, they encountered insurgents lying in wait who opened fire. In the firefight, Peralta was shot in the head and fell, even as one of the insurgents tossed a grenade. Seven witnesses say Peralta, lying on the ground, scooped the grenade underneath himself, absorbing the blast and saving the lives of the men with him.
SNIP: Mr. Panetta- So you’re telling me 7 witnesses lied? Or were hysterical?
Are you arguing over the DEGREE of heroism here?