IRAQ: No change for Sgt. Peralta, Navy secretary says
In an appearance Wednesday in San Diego, Navy Secretary Donald Winter indicated that the issue of whether Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta should have been awarded the Medal of Honor is now closed.
Congressional delegations from Hawaii and Southern California have asked President Bush to upgrade Peralta's award from the Navy Cross to the Medal of Honor for his actions during the battle in Fallouja in late 2004. Peralta's family lives in San Diego; he was part of a Marine unit stationed in Hawaii.
After his speech to the annual Fleet Week Foundation Breakfast, the first question to Winter from the audience involved his decision to award Peralta the Navy Cross rather than, as two Marine generals had recommended, the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest honor for combat bravery.
"The requirements for that award are extraordinary; there is no room for uncertainty," Winter told the group.
Winter added that, "I think we provided an appropriate recognition for his service and sacrifice."
Marines who were with Peralta insist he died while smothering a grenade tossed by an insurgent, thus saving their lives. But there is conflicting medical evidence about whether he died instantly from friendly fire seconds earlier and thus could not have consciously smothered the grenade.
Meeting with reporters after his speech, Winter said that he does not expect detailed forensic examinations to be made before a Medal of Honor can be awarded, "but when data is provided, it cannot be ignored."
— Tony Perry in San Diego
Photo: Navy Secretary Donald Winter. Credit: U.S. Navy
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