Written on Wednesday, January 9, 2013 by David L. Goetsch
President Obama talks a good game when it comes to the military, but it is his actions not his words that reveal the truth. When it comes to honoring military personnel for their service, Barack Obama shakes hands with one hand while stabbing them in the back with the other.
A good case in point is that of Sergeant Rafael Peralta who, while serving in Fallujah in 2004, gave his life to save the lives of his fellow Marines. In a final but fatal heroic act, an already wounded Sergeant Peralta used his body to cover a live grenade that would have killed or injured several members of his squad. As a result of this selfless act, Peralta was recommended for the Medal of Honor, a recommendation that has been turned down twice by the Obama administration in spite of support from a Congressman and the Secretary of the Navy.
The Medal of Honor is the most prestigious combat decoration a soldier, sailor, airmen, or Marine can earn. How prestigious is it? Even the lowliest Private who earns the Medal of Honor is saluted by the highest ranking general in the military. It is also the most difficult combat decoration to earn. How difficult is it to earn the Medal of Honor? Most of them are awarded posthumously. Although it came into being during the Civil War, the Medal of Honor did not achieve the prestige it now commands until later. As a result of changes in how it is awarded, the Medal of Honor has been very sparingly awarded since World War I. It is now even more difficult to earn than in the past. Why? Because of political gamesmanship on the part of liberal politicians in the Obama administration.
Fallujah was a hellhole for the Marines fighting there, one of the most deadly sectors in Iraq. Firefights were fierce and frequent. While leading his squad of Marines in trying to clear a house of insurgents, a firefight broke out and Sergeant Peralta was badly wounded. When a live grenade landed in the midst of his squad, Peralta—without a thought for his own life—reached out and pulled it under his body. By knowingly and willingly absorbing the killing blast, Peralta saved the lives of his fellow Marines. The case would seem like a natural for the award of our nation’s highest combat medal. After all, many of the Medals of Honor that have been awarded were earned by warriors who dove on a live grenade to save their fellow warriors.
Despite eyewitness reports, then Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates denied the recommendation that Peralta be awarded the Medal of Honor. Peralta was instead awarded the Navy Cross, the second highest medal a Marine can earn. The Navy Cross is a distinguished decoration to be respected and honored. The Marine Corps’ most decorated warrior, Chesty Puller, was himself denied the Medal of Honor more than once—many believe for political reasons within the military—and wound up receiving the Navy Cross five times. It is an honor of the first order to be awarded the Navy Cross, but the Navy Cross is not the Medal of Honor, and with eyewitness accounts supporting the award of our nation’s highest combat decoration, Peralta’s family is right to be disappointed.
Gates originally denied the recommendation that Peralta be awarded the Medal of Honor on the basis of alleged forensic evidence that is dubious at best. Forensic specialists claim that Peralta was likely already dead when the courageous act in question occurred and, as a result, could not have done what eyewitnesses claim. This opinion gives rise to an obvious question: If he did not do what the eyewitnesses claim, why was he given a medal at all? If he was dead and did not pull the live grenade under his body as witnesses claim, the only medal that should have been awarded is the Purple Heart.
When Peralta’s family received support from Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter, a veteran Marine who served in Iraq, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta agreed to review the case. Having done so, he too denied Peralta the Medal of Honor. Although he claimed there were still unanswered questions in the case, many think he denied the request for political reasons: he did not want to overturn the decision of his predecessor in the Obama Administration. Consider the words of Lance Corporal Robert Reynolds, one of the Marine’s saved by Peralta’s selfless action that tragic day in Fallujah: “If he didn’t sweep it (the grenade) under his body, I would be dead because I was five feet from him.”
In an administration that truly respects the military, Sergeant Peralta would have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Not wanting to overrule your predecessor is no reasons to deny a young Marine who died for his country and his fellow Marines what is due him. Unfortunately, Sergeant Peralta and his family got what everyone else who deals with the Obama administration gets: politics.