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Awarding the Medal of Honor to Marine Sgt. Peralta Is "Preserving the Integrity of the Process"

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I believe that enough has been said and written about the heroism that prompted the Commandant of the Marine Corps to nominate Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta for the Medal of Honor and also about the injustice that followed at the Pentagon, that it may suffice to just quote the citation that should have merited the Medal of Honor for this young hero:

... for extraordinary heroism while serving as Platoon Guide with 1st Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 3d Marines, Regimental Combat Team 7, 1st Marine Division, in action against Anti-Coalition Forces in support of Operation AL FAJR, in Fallujah, Iraq on 15 November 2004. 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.

Incredibly, on Sept. 17, 2008, Rafael Peralta's family was notified by Marine Lt. Gen. Natonski that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had rejected the Marine Corps' recommendation for Sgt. Peralta to receive the Medal of Honor. Instead, Peralta would be receiving the Navy Cross.

The Gates' appointed panel claimed that Peralta's actions did not meet the standard of "without any possibility of error or doubt."

Even more incredible was the central argument presented by the panel that the critically wounded Peralta could not have intentionally reached for the grenade, shielding his fellow Marines from the blast with his own body.

Even more incredible because in the very same citation awarding Peralta the Navy Cross we read the following words:

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.

Well, after almost four years, justice may finally be in the making.

As recounted here, numerous attempts have been made by many influential Members of Congress, the entire Hawaii House of Representatives, many organizations and thousands of individuals and even the Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus -- while serving under Secretary of Defense Gates -- to award the Medal of Honor posthumously to Sgt. Peralta.

On March 23, under new leadership at the Department of Defense and after the California congressional delegation obtained and sent to the U.S. Navy "a video of the battle action and a newly released report by a forensic pathologist that proves Peralta was conscious and intentionally pulled the grenade under his body," Mabus has promised to give the request to reopen the Medal of Honor nomination for Sgt. Peralta "thorough consideration."

Thursday, in an editorial, the Washington Post discussed the new evidence that " backs up the original story and undercuts the findings of the Gates review board" and pleads that "this injustice be reversed":

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta have an opportunity to right a senseless wrong. The preponderance of evidence indicates that Sgt. Peralta did what those who were present at the scene said he did: knowingly and willingly sacrifice his life to save fellow Marines. He upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the U.S. naval service. Before leaving for Fallujah, Sgt. Peralta wrote to his 14-year-old brother, "Be proud of me, bro... and be proud of being an American." A grateful nation should demonstrate its pride in Sgt. Peralta's heroism.

According to U-T San Diego, in a letter sent to the California congressional delegation that includes U.S. Rep. Duncan D. Hunter -- a Marine veteran who also fought at Fallujah -- and U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, all of whom signed the request to reconsider Peralta's award, Mabus wrote:

Sgt. Peralta gave his last full measure of devotion for our nation, willingly sacrificing his own life in combat to protect the lives of his fellow Marines... I share your commitment to ensuring that Sgt. Peralta's sacrifice receives the honor it deserves, and I am also committed to preserving the integrity of the process for awarding decorations for heroism.

Most Americans would say that "ensuring that Sgt. Peralta's sacrifice receives the honor it deserves" goes hand in hand with -- if not being a necessary part of -- "preserving the integrity of the process for awarding decorations for heroism" to our troops.