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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.

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Military Connection: Marine’s Death Reclassified: By Debbie Gregory

First CasualtyMarine’s death reclassified as first casualty of “Operation Inherent Resolve.”

Cpl. Jordan L. Spears, from Memphis, Indiana, was lost in the Persian Gulf on October 1, 2014. He was serving as a Crew Chief on an MV-22B Osprey, assigned to the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 163, supporting the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

The Osprey was attached to the USS Makin Island (LHD-8). Shortly after takeoff from the amphibious assault ship’s flight deck on October 1st, the Osprey nearly crashed. Cpl. Spears and another crew member bailed out of the aircraft and into the waters of the Persian Gulf.  The pilots were able to regain control and land safely back on the ship’s deck. Search and rescue operations were able to safely recover one crew member, but Cpl. Spears was never found. Initially, Cpl. Spears’ death was deemed by the Department of Defense (DOD) as a non-global war on terror casualty.

On October 28th, a review of the incident led to an reclassification of Cpl. Spears death as in support of the U.S. military’s efforts against the Islamic State, making Spears the first official casualty of Operation Inherent Resolve.

Unfortunately, the DOD has already identified a second casualty of Operation Inherent Resolve. Lance Cpl. Sean P. Neal died on October 23rd in Baghdad in a noncombat incident. Lance Cpl. Neal was a mortarman with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, an infantry unit out of Twentynine Palms, California.

As a nation, we send our condolences to the families, friends and comrades of Cpl. Spears and Lance Cpl. Neal, and to the entire U.S. Marine Corps. Let us hope that these two Marines remain honored members of a short list.

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Military Connection: Marine’s Death Reclassified: By Debbie Gregory