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New Hope in Family's Struggle to Honor Fallen Marine

Local Marine died in 2004 after shielding a grenade from fellow troops with his body

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Karen Peralta spoke exclusively to NBC 7 San Diego about her renewed hope that her brother will be awarded the Medal of Honor.

    Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will review the case of a local Marine who died protecting fellow troops, but was denied the Medal of Honor.

    U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter spoke with Panetta Thursday and was promised the denial would be reviewed, according to our media partners at the North County Times.

    "He promised to talk with the secretary and the Navy Review Board," said Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, to the North County Times.

    Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta died in 2004 after witnesses said he threw his body over a grenade to shield fellow troops from the explosion. He was nominated for the Medal of Honor but a panel could not determine if his act was deliberate.

    Forensic pathologists have argued that that Peralta couldn't have knowingly done it, since he was shot in the back of the head moments before he landed on the grenade.

    He was instead awarded the Navy Cross -- the second highest award for valor -- in 2008.

    "People who were with him say he did it," his sister, Karen Peralta said exclusively to NBC 7 San Diego. "I don't think it was just an action that he did while passing away. He did it, I know my brother."

    In the past few years, new evidence has emerged that challenges the theory he died before the explosion. A witness captured the moments after his death on video camera, which may be enough evidence to sway Secretary Panetta as he makes his decision.

    "I have not said previously that I am encouraged," Hunter said of the chances of Peralta's award being upgraded to the NCT. "I am encouraged now."

    Hunter has advocated for the Medal to be given to Peralta posthumously since the nomination was denied.

    Peralta's family says they could have an answer by next week. 

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