On November 15, 2004, Sgt. Rafael Peralta led his team through a series of houses in Fallujah, Iraq. After entering the third door of the house, he was hit by AK-47 fire. He moved off onto the floor to allow his team to return fire. The insurgents retaliated by tossing a grenade into the room of US Marines. Sgt. Peralta reached over, pulled the grenade to his chest, and smothered it. His body absorbed the majority of the blast and he died immediately, but he undoubtedly saved the lives of his fellow Marines.
Sgt. Peralta was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. The citation for that award included:
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.
U.S. Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., in late 2004 wrote a letter to then Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee recommending Peralta for the Medal of Honor. But unexpectedly, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates denied the recommendation, questioning whether or not Sgt. Peralta really smothered the grenade on purpose or not.
Robert Reynolds, a former Marine who credits Peralta with saving his life in the Fallujah house, said the Pentagon’s decision insults his honor.
“I feel like the Navy Cross is a cop-out,” said Reynolds, 31, of Ritzville, Wash. “I was 5 meters away. I saw what happened. I feel like they’re calling me a liar.” (SignOnSanDiego)
So, Peralta’s fellow Marines who witness the event say they saw him smother the grenade, his Navy Cross citation says he smothered the grenade, but the Pentagon wants to call it into question and not award the Medal of Honor? Are they suggesting that the grenade somehow was thrown and then rolled underneath Peralta’s body?