The family of a dead Marine who has been denied the military’s highest honor says it will continue to refuse to accept a lesser medal.
Mexican immigrant, Sgt. Rafael Peralta, 25, was awarded the Navy Cross after he was killed while smothering a grenade in Iraq to protect his colleagues.
The Pentagon on Wednesday confirmed an earlier decision not to award Peralta the Medal of Honor saying there was no proof that he was conscious when he rolled on to the grenade during the Battle of Fallujah in 2004. He had been shot in the head.
The case was reopened this year after Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter of California reviewed video that he said showed Peralta scooped up the grenade. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus also recommended the higher medal.
Peralta’s family in San Diego said on Wednesday it would keep pushing for the upgrade and would not accept the Navy Cross.
“Nothing they give him will bring him back, but for me to stop fighting would be like saying I don’t believe what he did,” his sister Icela Donald told the San Diego Union-Tribune
Donald said the family got a call from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s office two weeks ago saying the review was going well.
“Something happened in those two weeks, and it’s just devastating to us,” she told the Union-Tribune. “At the end, it’s all politics. They know what’s right and what’s wrong, but nobody wants to fix it.”
Hunter, a former Marine, said he would not comment on the case until he has seen the formal letter denying the request. In the past he has said the Pentagon has been inconsistent with its awards from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Only 10 Medals of Honor have been awarded in the past decade, he said, compared with 248 from the Vietnam War and 467 from World War II.
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