Congressman Duncan Hunter is making it his mission to award the late Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta the Medal of Honor for his service in Fallujah, Iraq.
Hunter, a Republican from California and a veteran himself, wrote a letter to the commandant of the Marine Corps, General, Robert Neller, asking for a review and to reconsider a nomination for Peralta. Hunter has been dogged in his pursuit.
Rafael Peralta, 25, was an infantry rifleman with the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. Born in Mexico, he became a U.S. resident and then a citizen after entering the Marine Corp.
"It is my hope that the Marine Corps will continue to support Peralta" for higher recognition, wrote Hunter, who served combat tours as a Marine officer in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Sgt. Peralta was killed On Nov. 14, 2004 by a grenade blast that he covered with his body.
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“I always knew my brother would receive the Medal of Honor, but I thought I’d die of old age before this case was corrected,” Rick Peralta, Rafael’s brother, told Fox News Latino.
Based on eyewitness accounts by fellow Marines, which is the traditional standard of proof, the Marine Corps and Navy Department recommended the Medal of Honor for Peralta.
However, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates rejected it after a panel of forensic and medical experts deemed Peralta was most likely too injured to have acted consciously.
In 2008, the Navy Department, following its own investigation, authorized the Navy Cross to be awarded to Peralta. The Navy Cross is the highest medal the military can give without Pentagon approval. Additionally, a warship was named after Peralta.
In June Peralta's family finally chose to accept the Navy Cross — after years of refusing it.
“My mom felt that when the ship was christened with his name, the Navy Cross deserved to be on that ship,”
Rick Peralta said. The family donated the Cross in honor of their fallen family member.
Below is the citation accompanying the award of the Navy Cross -- it tells Peralta’s story:
"Clearing scores of houses in the previous three days, Sergeant Peralta' asked to join an under strength squad and volunteered to stand post the night of 14 November, allowing fellow Marines more time to rest. The following morning, during search and attack operations, while clearing the seventh house of the day, the point man opened a door to a back room and immediately came under intense, close-range automatic weapons fire from multiple insurgents. The squad returned fire, wounding one insurgent. While attempting to maneuver out of the line of fire, Sergeant Peralta was shot and fell mortally wounded. After the initial exchange of gunfire, the insurgents broke contact, throwing a fragmentation grenade as they fled the building. The grenade came to rest near Sergeant Peralta's head. Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, Sergeant Peralta reached out and pulled the grenade to his body, absorbing the brunt of the blast and shielding fellow Marines only feet away. Sergeant Peralta succumbed to his wounds. By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty, Sergeant Peralta reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service."
“My brother’s story is so great. He gave the ultimate sacrifice. It’s only fair he should receive the highest award,” Rick Peralta said.