The years-long push to award fallen Sgt. Rafael Peralta the Medal of Honor seemed ended for good in February, when Chuck Hagel became the third Defense Secretary to decline to seek the higher award for the Marine, who allegedly saved the lives of fellow Marines in his final moments by pulling a live grenade under him during a fight with insurgents in Fallujah in 2004.
Peralta received the Navy Cross, the military’s second-highest honor, in 2008. Since then, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., has spearheaded a series of efforts to see him receive a higher award, unearthing new evidence and witnesses to support a Medal of Honor case.
But some evidence suggests that he may have already been incapacitated by a head wound and unable to consciously reach for the grenade. Hagel’s recent denial of requests to revisit Peralta’s Medal of Honor file said the evidence did not meet the “beyond reasonable doubt” medal standard.
Regardless, some are still agitating for Peralta to be recognized among the most elite ranks of military heroes.
In a new letter to Hagel, Marine vet Robert Reynolds describes what he saw from his vantage point, an arm’s length away from where Peralta died.
“If Sgt. Peralta did not consciously pull that grenade under his body, then how can you explain how it got there?” Reynolds wrote. “If it was not under him, then I would have been hammered with shrapnel from the grenade…I know without a doubt that Sgt. Peralta saved my life on 15 November 2004.”
Read the whole letter below.