Sgt. Rafael Peralta (Marine Corps)
The House version of the 2015 defense authorization bill would require the secretary of the Navy to provide Congress with a full report on the Navy Department’s review of Sgt. Rafael Peralta’s Medal of Honor nomination.
“Not later than 30 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of the Navy shall submit to the Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and House of Representatives a report describing the Navy review, findings and actions pertaining to the Medal of Honor nomination of Marine Corps Sergeant Rafael Peralta,” according to Section 572 of the draft legislation. “The report shall account for all evidence submitted with regard to the case.”
On No. 15, 2004, during the second battle of Fallujah, Iraq, Peralta, a platoon guide with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, was helping to clear houses when his unit came under attack. Mortally wounded by a bullet fragment, he pulled himself onto an enemy grenade in an effort to save other Marines.
Peralta was nominated for the nation’s highest honor for military valor in 2008.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates submitted the medal recommendation to the president, but quickly rescinded it when controversy erupted. A medical examiner’s report had cast doubt on whether Peralta could have made a conscious decision to pull the grenade under his body, given the significant head injuries he sustained in the moments before the blast.
Peralta instead received a Navy Cross in 2008, the military’s second highest honor, but his family has refused to accept the award.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who has advocated on Peralta’s behalf, tried to convince Defense Secretaries Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel to overturn Gates’ decision, but was unsuccessful. Hagel, who declined to reopen the case in February, said he did not believe the case met the medal’s “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard.
The controversy over Peralta’s Medal of Honor nomination intensified in February when a couple of Marines who were present during the house clearing operation in Fallujah came forward to say the account of Peralta’s actions is untrue.
One Marine in the house, Davi Allen, told the Washington Post he had his eyes on the grenade as it detonated, and saw it explode near, but not under, Peralta. Another Marine, Reggie Brown, alleged that squad members had suggested in the wake of the blast that they should honor Peralta by saying he had covered the grenade, even though he hadn’t.
But other Marines were adamant that the account was true. Then-Lance Cpl. Robert Reynolds, of Ritzville, Wash., who was in the room where Peralta died, said he was appalled by the Washington Post story.
“I was within arm’s reach of Peralta when Peralta put the grenade under his body,” said Reynolds, who was wounded in the arm during the firefight. “If he hadn’t done that, I would have been dead. Facts don’t lie.”
Reynolds says he lives with the physical evidence of Peralta’s heroism every day.
“Knowing that grenades have a five-meter killing radius, I would have been dead,” he said. “I would be dead. I have no shrapnel wounds from that grenade at all.”
The provision in the draft legislation could bring more information to light as Hunter and others continue their push to ensure Peralta receives the Medal of Honor.