SAN DIEGO - A Marine sergeant singled out by President Bush for throwing his body on a grenade to save his comrades in Iraq will receive the prestigious Navy Cross rather than the nation's highest military award, military officials said.
"I don't understand why if the president has been talking about him," his mother, Rosa Peralta, told the newspaper, which was the first to report the bestowing of the Navy Cross.
Rosa Peralta said she was informed during a meeting with Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Richard Natonski that a committee could not agree on awarding the Medal of Honor to her son, who Marine Corps officials say was first wounded by friendly fire. She said the general mentioned the friendly fire aspect as part of her son's death during the discussion.
According to a report by a Marine combat photographer who witnessed the act, Peralta lay wounded on the floor of a house and grabbed a grenade that had been lobbed by an insurgent. He absorbed the blast with his body, dying instantly.
In 2005, Natonski, then-commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, ordered an investigation to determine the source of a bullet fragment recovered from Peralta's body.
"Following multiple and exhaustive reviews, the evidence supports the finding that Peralta was likely hit by 'friendly fire,'" the Marine Corps said Wednesday in a press release. "This finding had no bearing on the decision to award the Navy Cross medal."
Something does not compute. The mother says that Gen. Natonski mentioned the friendly fire aspect of Sgt. Peralta's death, yet the Corps says that it had no bearing in the decision. Given the precedent set, this decision is really surprising. I really can't help but think that there was some bureaucratic maneuvering WRT the friendly fire aspect of the incident. If that's the case, it's too bad. This would be true in any war, but it's particularly galling in a conflict where there has been a distinct lack of recognition of heroes while at the same time a veritable cornucopia of bronze stars and the like awarded to everyone who deploys, even if all they did was keep an eye on the TCNs emptying out the porta shitters.