The Peralta family will donate the fallen Navy’s Navy Cross to the ship

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Almost seven years after the award was approved, the family of the deceased Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta will be holding his Navy Cross next month. But not for long.

In 2004, he seized a grenade thrown by an enemy during a building-cleaning mission in Fallujah, Iraq. According to his 2008 Navy Cross quote, Peralta fired the grenade at his body, absorbing the blast to protect his fellow Marines. His superiors nominated him for the highest military honor for bravery – the Medal of Honor – but a succession of defense secretaries determined that the evidence for Peralta’s heroism was not conclusive enough to meet the standards. high of this price.

Fans have repeatedly insisted that Peralta’s price be improved for 10 years. And during that time, the family of the deceased Marine chose not to receive his Navy Cross, insisting he won the Medal of Honor.

But now family members have agreed to accept the award and will do so on June 8 in a ceremony at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Chaired by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.

Peralta’s mother, two sisters and brother plan to attend the ceremony, as well as Navy veteran Nicholas Jones, who says Peralta saved his life.

Officials from the I Marine Expeditionary Force have confirmed plans for a ceremony, saying details are still being worked out.

Peralta’s sister, Icelandic Peralta-Donald, said the family changed their minds last October during the keel-laying ceremony for Navy destroyer Rafael Peralta. Navy officials told Peralta’s mother Rosa it was a tradition for the family to donate a personal item for the ship in honor of its namesake.

“It was his motivation to receive the Navy Cross,” said Peralta-Donald. “She thinks it will take Rafa’s mind and keep everyone on the crew safe. She thinks it will be up to them.”

A photo of the newly appointed Navy destroyer Rafael Peralta is displayed during a ceremony in San Diego.

Photo credit: Lance Cpl. Anna Albrecht / Marine Corps

The family plan to cherish the Navy Cross over the summer and donate it to the ship for her christening on Oct. 31, Peralta-Donald said.

She said the Marine Corps quickly agreed when her brother Ricardo contacted officials and explained the family’s interest in having a ceremony.

The only challenge, she said, had been finding free time in Mabus’ schedule to present the award.

In some ways, the ceremony will end a long period of expectation and uncertainty for the family. A new effort to award Peralta the Medal of Honor was started in 2013 by Representative Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., Who posted new photos of the shrapnel-scarred rifle from the Navy and discovered additional witness statements from a Marine and Marine Corps that had been near the compound where Peralta died.

But last year then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced he would not be reopening the case, saying the new evidence still falls short of the “beyond doubt” standard. reasonable”.

A Washington Post article from February 2014 sparked new controversy, citing two Navy witnesses who claimed that the story of Peralta’s heroism was made up shortly after his death by grieving comrades. Other eyewitnesses told the Marine Corps Times they stood by their accounts of the bravery of the fallen Navy.

Peralta-Donald said the family’s decision to accept Navy Cross was not a concession or an indication that they would stop seeking a higher reward.

“Deep in our hearts we still believe that someone will do the right thing and move on to the Medal of Honor,” she said.

Current Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has never been asked to review the Peralta case, so there remains the possibility of a new review in the years to come.

Peralta-Donald acknowledged the toll the uncertainty had taken on his family and said it was time to cherish the honors Sgt. Peralta had been granted.

“Right now I think my mom is tired. She just wants to put this all to an end,” she said. “When we went to see the ship it was amazing. It changed the spirit of everything.”

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