The family of a San Diego Marine killed in action accepted the Navy Cross in a ceremony on Camp Pendleton Monday, ending years of controversy over how the military would honor the fallen Marine.
The military’s second highest honor was bestowed to Sgt. Rafael Peralta 11 years after he fell on a grenade in combat.
Many argued Peralta should have received the Medal of Honor. However Defense Secretary Robert Gates cited forensic evidence that suggested the Marine wasn't conscious when he smothered the grenade with his body. Johnson said he also questioned eyewitness accounts.
Former Defense Secretaries Chuck Hagel and Leon Panetta also denied the request.
In an interview with NBC 7 last week, Peralta’s mother said she is humbled by the award, but believes her son is a hero even without one.
The family has said they’ll give the award to the Navy ship being dedicated in Peralta’s honor.
In reflecting on the award, Ricardo Peralta said his brother always fortuitously said he would make history. Even so, Rafael Peralta didn’t serve his country for an award or notoriety.
“He was never about all that,” Ricardo Peralta said. “Regardless of what they give him, it does not take away anything or add to my pride.”