His comrades hailed him as a hero. Staff Sgt. Adam Morrison, who was there when it happened, told the Orange County Register:
“Because of Rafael Peralta, I’m here today.”
Although the Navy and Marine Corps initially recommended him for a Medal of Honor due to his heroic actions, it was denied by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in 2008 and others since, NBC News reports.
Why? It was suggested that Peralta was “too injured” to know what he was doing:
The decision came after the inspector general of the Defense Department fielded a complaint and Gates assembled a team of experts that recommended the highest honor be denied.
Peralta’s family fought the decision for seven years. Now, while he may not be getting the Medal of Honor, his heroic actions are finally receiving some much-deserved recognition.
On Monday, his family posthumously accepted the Navy Cross at Camp Pendleton, according to Fox News.
The award citation recognizes the Marine’s heroism:
While attempting to maneuver out of the line of fire, Sgt. Peralta was shot and fell mortally wounded. After the initial exchange of gunfire, the insurgents broke contact, throwing a fragmentation grenade as they fled the building.
The grenade came to rest near Sgt. Peralta’s head. Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, Sgt. Peralta reached out and pulled the grenade to his body, absorbing the brunt of the blast and shielding fellow Marines only feet away.
The Orange County Register notes that Peralta has been the recipient of other honors and awards, including having a U.S. Navy Destroyer named after him, and receiving a Purple Heart and a Combat Action Ribbon.