Marine who died in Iraq won't get Medal of Honor

Sgt. Rafael Peralta was ruled not to have been conscious when his body smothered a grenade in Iraq in 2004.

SAN DIEGO — The secretary of defense has denied a request to upgrade a fallen Marine's Navy Cross to the Medal of Honor, a San Diego congressman's office said Wednesday.

The Pentagon told Rep. Duncan Hunter it supports the decision of former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who honored Sgt. Rafael Peralta with the Navy Cross instead of the military's highest honor.

Peralta was not conscious when his body smothered a grenade in Iraq in 2004, saving the lives of other Marines, Gates ruled in 2008. The case was reopened this year after Hunter obtained a video of the battle action and a new forensics report. The lawmaker said the new evidence proved Peralta's actions were intentional.

But defense officials found the new evidence was not sufficient to change the decision, said Joe Kasper, Hunter's spokesman.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus told reporters during a visit to Camp Pendleton last week that he had recommended Peralta be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Peralta's family was informed of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's decision on Wednesday, Kasper said.

Hunter's office told them the congressman, a former combat Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, would continue to fight to get the medal upgraded.

Hunter believes the Medal of Honor is the award Peralta deserves, Kasper said.

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