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Lawmakers: Kaneohe Marine deserves Medal of Honor

By Julie Watson

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 12:13 p.m. HST, Mar 01, 2012

SAN DIEGO >> Federal lawmakers announced Thursday they have obtained information previously unavailable to military investigators that proves the Navy should not have disqualified a Kaneohe Marine from being posthumously awarded America's highest military honor.

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter said his office sent a formal request from the area's congressional delegation to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus urging him to reconsider Sgt. Rafael Peralta for the Medal of Honor in a last-ditch effort before the deadline ends.  Four other San Diego-area representatives and California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer also signed the letter.

After a scientific panel examined the forensic evidence at the time, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates decided to award Peralta the Navy Cross instead of the Medal of Honor based on the conclusion that the Marine who suffered a head wound was not conscious when his body smothered a grenade in Iraq in 2004, saving fellow Marines with the 1st Battilion, 3rd Marines in the battle for Fallujah.

Hunter spokesman Joe Kasper said the congressman has obtained a video of the battle action and a newly released report by a forensic pathologist that proves Peralta intentionally pulled the grenade under his body.

Hunter said the information was previously unavailable to military investigators and reaffirms "just how wrong Secretary Gates and his panel were in reaching their decision."

The Defense Department's conclusion contradicts the Marine Corps' report and the accounts of seven witnesses who saw Peralta pull the grenade to himself, Hunter said.

"The responsibility for correcting this mistake rests with the Secretary of Defense, who is in the position to ensure Sgt. Peralta receives the recognition he should have received years ago," said Hunter, a Marine combat veteran who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kasper said the congressman sent the Navy the report by forensic pathologist Dr. Vincent Di Maio, who concluded: "Taking into account the circumstances surrounding the incident: the statements of the witnesses; the condition of the body armor; the autopsy findings; the opinion of the neurosurgeons and neurologist and my own experience with head wounds, it is my opinion that, in all medical probability, Sgt. Peralta was not immediately incapacitated by the brain injury, and in fact reached for the grenade and pulled it under his body."

Navy officials said they were looking into the letter from the lawmakers.

Last month, the Navy announced it would name one of its ships after Peralta. The California lawmakers commended Mabus for the decision.

"Giving Sgt. Peralta the last measure of recognition he deserves, by awarding him the Medal of Honor, would go a long way towards strengthening the integrity of the awards process," the letter states.

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mrluke wrote:
"previously unavailable" How convenient!
on March 1,2012 | 09:11AM
Living_Large wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on March 1,2012 | 09:44AM
blkdrgn wrote:
read up on Daniel Inouye. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Inouye
on March 1,2012 | 12:13PM
Ronin006 wrote:
Politicians need to stay out of the approval of military awards. President Obama recently awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously to a soldier from Hawaii who was killed in Korea in September 1951. The soldier was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his valor. There was not a single witness to what the soldier did. The citation was based entirely on what the Army assumed he had done. The soldier's family, after visiting the US Army Museum at Fort DeRussy in the late 1950s and reading accounts of what other soldiers had done to earn the Medal of Honor, thought their relative also deserved the MOH, and began lobbying Hawaii's Congressional delegation to have the DSC upgraded to the MOH. The Army reconsidered the award numerous times, the last time in 2010, and each time concluded there was insufficient evidence to support the MOH. Nevertheless, the soldier was awarded the MOH posthumously by President Obama in May 2011. That happened because a member of our congressional delegation, refusing to accept the Army's high standards for the award of the nation’s highest honor, decided he knew better and decided to circumvent the Army by attaching a rider to an appropriations bill to upgrade the DSC to the MOH. When President Obama signed the appropriations bill, it automatically approved everything attached to it. The MOH, in effect, was a political award instead of a military award. It should not have happened but it did because of politics.
on March 1,2012 | 10:02AM
cojef wrote:
You may be right, but about the nisei situation? In the instant case forensic evidence was used to justify the MOH. In the past, minorities were often denied the MOH, like it was reserved only for the Caucasians. Peralta, from his name is Hispanic and may be the reason why he initially qualified for the NC only. Act of heroism is not restricted only to a particular race.
on March 1,2012 | 10:25AM
konakeoni99 wrote:
i hope Sgt. Peralta gets awarded the MOH
on March 1,2012 | 11:32AM
scooters wrote:
If SEVEN eye witness's are not enough to verify an act of valor, then what is? This Marine must known what he was doing, if he was pulling that grenade under his body. A brain dead person could not have done that. Right this wrong!
on March 1,2012 | 12:23PM
nitestalker3 wrote:
EXACTLY ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
on March 1,2012 | 12:42PM
Ronin006 wrote:
Seriously, scooters, if you have ever been in close combat, you would know that soldiers do not stand around looking at a hand grenade tossed into their position to see what will happen to it because they are to busy scrambling to get away from it. Seven marines may have provided statement regarding the hostile action in which they and SGT Peralta participated, but I think it is highly unlikely that all seven marines saw SGT Peralta pull the grenade to himself.
on March 1,2012 | 01:56PM
bubbaButt wrote:
Sgt. Rafael Peralta, you are forever in our hearts! HooRah Devil Dog!
on March 1,2012 | 01:29PM
Honto5 wrote:
WTF?.....How stupid and absurd can the Dept of Defense be? ... Whether or not they can ascertain if the Marine's actions was a "CONSCIOUS ACT" is so irrelevant. And not one from the MOH selection committee from the Dept of Defense was at the battle area when it happened that day, but 7 witnesses who are alive today because they claimed that Marine saved their lives WERE. They ALL claimed they saw him pull the grenade into his body; the Marine is now DEAD and his hand and arm was either blown to shreds or probably completely off. What more do you need? ...."CONSCIOUS OR UNCONSCIOUS" ........It is what It is........Give Honor and Credti to where Honor and Credit it due.
on March 1,2012 | 01:54PM
Ronin006 wrote:
Honto? Read my post above about seven marines standing around watching a hand grenade roll around waiting to see where it might explode. It defies reality. There is no question about the seven marines being involved in the battle in which SGT Peralta was killed, but do you really believe they all watched the grenade rolling on the ground and seeing SGT Peralta grab it and pull to himself? If anything, they all were rapidly scrambling away from it to avoid being hit by the grenade's fragments.
on March 1,2012 | 04:58PM
Honto5 wrote:
Ronin, you actually make a valid point, but your point of view and arguement only solidifies and confirms the Heroism ABOVE and BEYOND the CALL OF DUTY of what SGT Peralta did that day since you're convinced that all 7 Marines alilve today must've SAW the grenade and rapidly SCRAMBLED away to AVOID grenade fragments. Your assumption is, upon seeing the grenade, the 7 Marines' natural reaction was to get out of harms way and all 7 could not have saw the heroic action. Even if the 7 Marines may have collaborated the story since ALL were conviced a GRENADE presented imminent danger, all they needed was ONE to see the heroic action to justify the MOH. Google the criteria for award of MOH and you will see SGT Peralta's actions meets the requirements. The committee disqualified him for the award because they believe SGT Peralta was "NOT CONSCIOUS" when he did this, my arguement is that's absured.
on March 2,2012 | 10:43AM
Bothrops wrote:
The Marines think he did it, a bunch of doctors think he couldn't have. The Medal of Honor is all about people who couldn't have done what they did, but hey, go tell that to the Marines. It took Senator Inouye 50 years to get his medal. The clock has barely started on Sgt Peralta.
on March 1,2012 | 06:25PM
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