Skip to comments.Sgt. Rafael Peralta Deserves a Medal of Honor
Posted on 09/20/2008 3:36:14 PM PDT by kathsua
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' decision to award Sgt. Rafael Peralta a Navy Cross instead of a Medal of Honor makes no sense.
Either Peralta grabbed a grenade to protect his fellow Marines or he did not. If Peralta grabbed the grenade then he deserves a Medal of Honor. If he did not grab the grenade than there is no reason to award him a Navy Cross.
Peralta was born in Mexico and joined the Marines as soon as he received a green card. He subsequently became a U.S. citizen while serving in the Marines.
On November 15, 2004, while serving as part of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment during Operation Al Fajr in the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, Peralta entered a building with 11 other Marines including Lance Corporal T.J. Kaemmerer, a Marine combat correspondent attached to Peraltas Company.
According to Kaemmerer's account, they had cleared most of the concrete house when they came to the last room with the door closed. Peralta opened the door and then jumped out of the way after being hit by AK-47 fire to allow the other Marines to fire into the room.
Peralta was lying on the floor wounded when a yellow colored grenade landed near him. As the other Marines scrambled to get away from it, they saw his hand grab the grenade and pull it toward his body.
Col. Eric Berg III, an Army pathologist who autopsied Peralta's remains, said in the 2005 report that the head wound from what is believed to be a ricochet from an American rifle would have been "nearly instantly fatal. He could not have executed any meaningful motions."
I don't know upon what empirical research he based his opinion. In order to make such a definitive statement there would need to be scientific research comparing observations of people after having been shot in the same manner. Without such research Berg's statement is only an opinion, not a fact.
Four other experts - Peralta's battalion surgeon, and two neurosurgeons and a neurologist who examined the autopsy reports - said Peralta could have knowingly reached for the grenade because the ricochet that hit him was traveling at "low velocity" and would not have immediately killed him.
I don't know upon what evidence they are basing the claim that the wound occurred before the grenade exploded. The Marines withdrew after the grenade exploded because the back of the building was on fire. Safe withdrawal would have meant that they would have continued to fire as they left and the bullet could have hit Peralta's head at that time.
The experts may not be giving sufficient consideration to the role of reflex actions in such situations. Many heroic acts in war are reflexive actions.
If a grenade lands near you and you take time to think about what to do it will explode before you make a decision. Peralta wouldn't have had to be fully conscious. His eyes saw the grenade and he reflexively grabbed it.
By the time I left Vietnam, I had developed reflexes to noises that could be exploding shells. If I heard something that might be an incoming round, my feet would start moving to the bunker while my brain determined if it was incoming or outgoing.
If Peralta could not have grabbed the grenade, what action did he take that would justify a Navy Cross? Opening the door to the room where the insurgents were might quality for a bronze star or maybe a silver star, but not a Navy Cross. Otherwise the Navy would have to award such a medal everytime someone entered a room where an enemy might be.
Marine Reserve Lt. Col. Scott Marconda, who investigated the incident in 2004 as a major and judge advocate, makes a good point. "there's no way that grenade got under the center of mass of his body without him putting it there. I'm not a cheerleader. It is what it is. And my point is: I believe that he did that."
Does the Department of Defense believe that the grenade just miraculously landed where Peralta's body could protect the other Marines from the blast?
Something is very wrong here. Congress needs to investigate why the Department of Defense has made such a strange decision
The Navy Cross is nothing to spit at, a very high medal indeed. The Medal of Honor is such a unique medal that so few get, I do not want to speak for the committee who makes this decision. I’m sure they get many applications. This young man is a hero, no question, but the decision of being a MOH has very high criteria.
I am glad to seen FOX News hitting this hard. I wasn’t there but those who were say he deserves the Medal of Honor. I stand by those people.
I read the whole story about this the other day, to tell the truth his falling on the grenade was most likely an accident. The doctor said the bullet to the head killed him instantly. But the navy cross is a great medal, the man had bronze one’s.
I agree with your point here and suggest that the evidence supports this as a very real possibility. Award of the Medal of Honor requires a conscious act of valor above and beyond the call of duty with a full understanding of the risks involved. For this reason, I believe that Gates made the right call, though it was a tough one.
I also believe that there have been far too few awards of the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, and the Navy Cross. In an honest effort to maintain the integrity of these awards, the Defense Department has demanded a standard of proof that is just too high to fit within the natural confusion that surrounds combat. This is especially true in the Army, who have awarded far too few of these high honors (the Army behaves quite differently for lower valor awards, passing out more than they should).
I know that this may seem inconsistent on my part, but in Peralta's case, with the evidence on the table, I don't think that Gates could ignore it.
Unfortunately for the integrity of the Medal of Honor, I predict that SGT Peralta will receive the Medal of Honor. He belongs to a politically favored group, recend immigrants, and the recent history of the Medal of Honor makes it quite clear that the rules are indeed different for politcally favored groups. The recent history are the retroactive awards for WWII and Korea that have been given to African Americans, Japanese Americans, and Native Americans.
“By the time I left Vietnam, I had developed reflexes to noises that could be exploding shells. If I heard something that might be an incoming round, my feet would start moving to the bunker while my brain determined if it was incoming or outgoing.”
Strange comment.....I had no confusion whatever after the first incoming went off.......the incoming vs outgoing noise is SOOOO distinct that it makes the above quote suspect. From the time you hear your first incoming mortar.RPG/whatever detonation onward, there is no confusion. None. Zero.
That said, I cannot comment on the MOH matter, since I was not there. I only know that if his buddies want him remembered well, and are embellishing to do so, I hope they know that this would be quite different from downed pilots wingmen declaring “good chute” when there was none, in order for the wife of the pilot who went in to continue to receive his full pay......an MOH is different, IMO....
However — if more than one of his fellow Marines said they SAW him reach out and pull the grenade toward his body — then that trumps the “judgment” of the ONE examining physician who disagreed with the opinion of the others.....
Men are capable of doing unbelievable acts while seemingly mortally wounded...
An NVA sapper who has his entire jaw shot away and dangling - continued to run back and forth before the wire in confused panic until a Marine took pity at the spectacle and delivered a head shot to end it.
Peralta’s mother was told long ago that the process had been done and her son was recommended for the Medal of Honor. All that was needed was for the highest office to OK it. Now Gates seems to contradict what those on the ground have said all along. And the grenade was plumb under the man and couldn’t have gotten there other than he pulled it under. He did not fall on it when wounded.
As to Rafael being from Mexico. If ever we were to thank God for an immigrant(legal or illegal), it was this young man. Check back and see what he had on the walls of his bedroom, he was a patriot and appreciated what he was getting in the USA and I don’t mean money. To join the Corps the moment he got his green card says a lot. Check out also what his friends said of him and drop any denigration of his background. He was one with us.
I say the President should override Gates’ numb sense and award the medal.
My thoughts exactly.
It seems to me that any man who believes his life has been saved by someone else is going to want that person to be honored and of course the men involved in this incident would want him to receive The Medal of Honor.
Receiving it is about much more than that, though. If it weren’t, we’d have many more given and it wouldn’t mean what it does.
The five men Gates asked to review the facts surrounding the case(Including a Medal of Honor recipient) are all military and all came to the same conclusion.
I have to believe they gave it the consideration it deserved and came to the correct conclusion.
I can’t believe this woman would actually consider turning down the Navy Cross which is an incredible honor in itself.