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More members of Congress ask for Peralta review

Sep. 30, 2008 - 04:12PM   |   Last Updated: Sep. 30, 2008 - 04:12PM  |  
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Hawaii's congressional delegation has added its voices to those seeking a presidential review of the Pentagon's decision to award the late Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta whose body shielded others from a grenade blast a Navy Cross instead of the Medal of Honor.

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Hawaii's congressional delegation has added its voices to those seeking a presidential review of the Pentagon's decision to award the late Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta whose body shielded others from a grenade blast a Navy Cross instead of the Medal of Honor.

"It is our understanding that several members of the California delegation have written expressing their concerns and requesting a review of his case," states a letter sent Friday by the Hawaii delegation to the White House. "We would also like to convey our disappointment in this decision and strong support in favor of such a review."

The letter is signed by the four members of Hawaii's delegation: U.S. Sens. Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel K. Akaka, and U.S. Reps. Mazie Hirono and Neil Abercrombie. All are Democrats.

Honor or insult?">Read Peralta's story

Peralta, 25, a Kane'ohe Bay Marine who volunteered to undertake house clearing in the Battle of Fallujah, Iraq, with other 1st Battalion, 3rd Regiment Marines, was killed on Nov. 15, 2004.

An Iraqi grenade was tossed into the room, and multiple witnesses stated Peralta pulled the grenade to his body. Robert Reynolds, one of the Marines in the room, said Peralta's action saved five Marines that day.

The Hawaii delegation made reference to the case of Army medic James Okubo, who was awarded the Silver Star for his actions in 1944.

"After reconsideration, the decision was rightly made to award him the Medal of Honor for saving the lives of several of his fellow soldiers in the battlefields of France," the Hawaii congressional letter states.

Okubo was one of 22 Asian-Americans and American Pacific Islanders whose medals were upgraded in 2000 to the Medal of Honor. Inouye, who lost his arm attacking a German machine gun nest in Italy, was one of those service members to receive the nation's highest military honor.

Peralta's brother-in-law, David Donald, said Rosa Peralta, the Marine's mother, hasn't decided yet if, or when, she will accept the Navy Cross.

"She feels he deserves the Medal of Honor," Donald said. "We want to see what comes about before she makes any decision (about accepting a Navy Cross)."

Several insurgents fired on seven Marines as they went room-to-room in a house. According to an investigation, Peralta was shot in the back of the head by friendly fire possibly a ricochet fell to the ground, and soon after, pulled in the tossed grenade.

Peralta had been recommended for the Medal of Honor, but on Sept. 17 his family in California was notified that he would receive the Navy Cross instead.

One medical expert, an Army pathologist, said the head wound would have been immediately incapacitating, and that Peralta could not have executed "any meaningful motions." Four other medical experts said he was capable of pulling in the grenade.

"It is our understanding that the review panel could not confirm whether Sgt. Peralta's actions were deliberate, despite the fact that several fellow Marines who were witnesses to the events of that day verify that he knowingly reached out to pull in the grenade and absorbed the full explosion with his body," the Hawaii congressional letter states.

Clearly, Peralta made a "deliberate decision" to absorb the grenade blast and protect fellow Marines, the letter said.

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