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Lawmaker Won’t Give Up on Medal of Honor for Fallen Marine

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By Debbie Gregory.

 

Rep. Duncan Hunter (Rep. CA) is hoping that the fourth time’s the charm for fallen Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta.

The lawmaker, a veteran Marine officer, sent a letter petitioning Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to review Peralta’s nomination for the Medal of Honor — a nomination that three previous defense secretaries have opted not to approve.

Peralta was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.  “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,” the citation read.

Peralta had been wounded by a bullet ricochet to the back of the head immediately before his death, and some investigators have questioned whether he could have been conscious and able to grab the grenade after sustaining that wound.

Peralta’s desire to become a Marine was sparked shortly after he moved to California as a teenager. A native of Mexico, he had moved from Tijuana to San Diego after his mother grew concerned that he could get swept up in gang violence.

Peralta, an undocumented immigrant during his first years in San Diego, enlisted the day his green card arrived in the mail in 2000.

Hunter’s letter came just days after the Navy took ownership of the USS Rafael Peralta, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer named in honor of the fallen Marine.

Eyewitness accounts remain a sticky point in the Peralta case. Hunter notes that three Marines who were there in Fallujah during the firefight credit the sergeant with saving their lives.

A Marine colonel assigned to investigate the facts wrote in a Nov. 17, 2005, report that he was convinced that the Marines who testified to Peralta’s actions “gave an honest account.” He also found that Peralta was “probably” shot by friendly fire and listed both the gunshot and shrapnel wounds from the grenade as the cause of death.

“Jim Mattis can now make the right decision on this after others have failed to do that,” said Hunter.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Vets in Congress Back Mattis for Ban Exemptions

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By Debbie Gregory.

Defense Secretary James Mattis has requested that President Trump exempt Iraqi nationals, who risked their lives to help American troops in wartime, from the executive order halting immigration from Iraq. Trump’s executive order, published Jan. 27, put an immediate temporary halt to immigration from seven countries, including Iraq.

Mattis has the backing of a bipartisan group of lawmakers, who made a written request in a letter to the president. The letter asks Trump to exempt Iraqi military interpreters, aides and allies from the scope of the order.

The bipartisan letter was signed by Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-California, Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, Steve Stivers, R-Ohio; Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon; Seth Moulton, D-Massachusetts; and Peter Welch, D-Vermont.

Both Hunter and Kinzinger are veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively. Stivers and Moulton are also veterans.

“We made a promise to the men and women who served alongside us on the battlefield, and we must uphold that promise to leave no man behind,” Hunter and Kinzinger said in a joint statement. “We urge the president to honor Secretary Mattis’ requests, and stand up for those who stood by our military and American personnel. For the safety of these courageous individuals and their families, and in the interest of our national security, it’s critical that we make this exception and do so swiftly.”

Moulton, a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq, has publicly discussed bringing his own interpreter to the United States on a Special Immigrant Visa, and has taken an even stronger stance in full opposition to Trump’s executive order.

Moulton warned that closing doors to immigration would fuel antipathy against the U.S. and help Islamic State radicals recruit new suicide bombers.

“His policies literally put our troops’ lives at risk — I’ve heard this loud and clear when I have visited them overseas,” he said. “They also prove he has zero understanding of our country’s values and no intention of defending our Constitution.”

The order caused immigrants currently in transit to be taken into custody, including Hameed Khalid Darweesh, who had reportedly worked for the U.S. government in Iraq for more than ten years. Darweesh was ultimately released.

There are special immigrant visas that were expressly created for Iraqis and Afghans who assisted American troops, so that they could relocate to the United States, acknowledging that their work put their lives and the lives of their  families in peril.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Defending Innocence and Paying the Price: Military Connection

Defending Innocence

By Debbie Gregory.

Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland’s Army career changed course during his second deployment to Afghanistan in 2011. And now it appears that the Army is expelling him for actions that most people would classify as heroic.

The decorated Green Beret said that he is being kicked out of the Army for losing his cool in 2011 and striking an Afghan local police officer, one who had allegedly confessed to raping a boy and then beating the child’s mother for telling authorities. Martland has served in the Special Forces for 11 years. Many of his teammates say that he is the finest soldier they have ever served alongside.

Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. said, “To intervene was a moral decision, and SFC Martland and his Special Forces team felt they had no choice but to respond.”

In a letter to Hunter, Martland said he had encountered corrupt police officials who were conducting beatings, honor killings and rapes that went unpunished. When he became aware of the atrocity that had befallen this child and his mother, Martland said it was too much.

In a memo to the Army Enlisted Records and Evaluation Center, Martland admitted to striking the Afghan.

He was punished by the Army at the time, but why exactly Martland is now being discharged is a matter of dispute.

Martland had fallen under the Army’s Qualitative Management Program, a process that can be triggered by derogatory information on their record. Though technically not a draw-down tool, it is aiding in force reduction efforts by weeding out less desirable soldiers; a black mark on their record, such as a relief for cause, can trigger a formal QMP review and result in involuntary separation.

Army sources cited his accolades, including being named runner-up for 2014 Special Warfare Training Group Instructor of the Year from a pool of 400 senior leaders in Special Forces, in questioning the decision.

The Army could not comment on the administrative decision to separate Martland, citing privacy concerns.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.