Peregrine flight

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sgt. Rafael Peralta U.S.M.C.

Sgt. Peralta r.i.p.
My wife and I were eating breakfast this morning when she remarked that it was a shame the way the government had handled the case of the late Sgt. Rafael Peralta (1979-2004.) After heroically saving the lives of his fellow marines in an action that cost him his life, the government chose to not award him the Medal of Honor for bravery and give him the less distinguished Navy Cross instead. Peralta was a San Diegan, went to Morse High School and by all accounts, was an exemplary soldier. Here are the facts of the case from Wikipedia:

On November 15, 2004, 25 year old Sgt. Peralta, deployed to Iraq as a scout team leader assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, along with his team was ordered to clear houses in the Operation Phantom Fury. Peralta was not assigned to enter the buildings, but chose to do so anyway.
Sergeant Peralta led his team through a series of house clearings before charging into the fourth house. He found two rooms empty on the ground floor. Peralta opened a third door and was hit multiple times with AK-47 fire, leaving him severely wounded. He dropped to the floor and moved aside in order to allow the Marines behind him to return fire.
The insurgents responded by throwing a grenade at the Marines. The two Marines with Sgt. Peralta tried to get out of the room but could not. Sgt. Peralta was still conscious on the floor and reports indicate that despite his wounds, he was able to reach for the grenade and pull it under his body absorbing the majority of the lethal blast and shrapnel which killed him instantly, but saved the lives of his fellow Marines.

The Pentagon decided to not give him the award after testimony from an appointed panel unanimously confirmed that his actions did not meet the standard of "without any possibility of error or doubt." The central argument posed relates to whether the already mortally-wounded Peralta could have intentionally reached for the grenade, shielding his fellow Marines from the blast.

My wife said that at least seven fellow marines said that he did in fact cover the grenade and save his comrades from harm but the pathology report felt that it was impossible, he was already clinically dead.

The Pentagon told Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) it supports the decision by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who ruled Peralta was not conscious and brain dead when his body smothered the grenade. Thus, his actions were not intentional, the report said. Well, stranger things have happened. The Lieutenant General of the Marine Corps, Richard Natonski, said "I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt" that the gravely wounded Peralta covered the grenade. "He saved half my fire team,"said Cpl. Brannon Dyer, 27, Blairsville, Ga. "I believe it."said Alpha's commander, Capt. Lee Johnson. "He was that kind of Marine."

I think that this whole thing sounds like a travesty. You are calling the fellow marine eyewitnesses liars, for one thing. Either he gets the Medal of Honor or give him nothing. Leslie wondered if we would even be having this discussion if he was not a mexican immigrant? Or maybe the brass wants to make the story go away after reports that he might have been initially shot by friendly fire? Shameful. I commend Congressman Duncan Hunter Jr. and Mayor Bob Filner for fighting to get this man honored with our nation's highest award. What a man he was.

Here is the wording on the Naval Cross citation:

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.

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