By Debbie Gregory.
Nearly seven years after the award was approved, the family of fallen Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta has accepted his Navy Cross. But the family will only hold onto it temporarily, as they intend to donate it to the Navy destroyer Rafael Peralta for its October 31st christening
On November 15, 2004, Sgt. Peralta absorbed a grenade blast during a building-clearing mission in Fallujah, Iraq. He had already been shot multiple times by an AK-47, when insurgents threw a hand grenade in the room where Peralta and two additional Marines were. According to his 2008 Navy Cross citation, Peralta pulled the enemy grenade to his body to protect his fellow Marines.
Although his superiors put him in for the Medal of Honor, a succession of defense secretaries determined that the evidence of Peralta’s heroism wasn’t conclusive enough to meet the high standard for military’s highest award for valor. Additionally, there have been conflicting stories of the events of that day.
Peralta’s family resisted receipt of his Navy Cross, insisting he earned the Medal of Honor.
Peralta’s sister, Icelda Peralta-Donald, said the family had a change of heart last October during the keel-laying ceremony for the Rafael Peralta. Navy officials told Peralta’s mother, Rosa, that it was traditional for the family to donate a personal item for the ship in honor of its namesake.
Peralta-Donald said that her mother now feels that her son’s Navy Cross will keep all the crew members safe.
Peralta-Donald said the family’s decision to accept the Navy Cross was not a concession or an indication that they would stop pursuing a higher award.
“Deep in our hearts we still believe somebody will do the right thing and upgrade to the Medal of Honor,” she said.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter has never been asked to consider the Peralta case, so there remains the possibility of a new review in coming years.
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Navy Cross Will Set Sail: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory