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Marine's Medal of Honor quest begins with new Pentagon chief

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With a new secretary of defense now installed, members of Congress have restarted their push to have the Obama administration award the Medal of Honor to Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta, who was killed while absorbing the blast from a grenade in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004.

The last two defense secretaries have rejected bids to grant Peralta the military’s top combat honor, discounting eyewitness testimony that Peralta knowingly scooped the grenade to his body and instead relying on forensic reports that said he was likely already blind and incapacitated by a gunshot wound to the head, and could not have knowingly covered the grenade.

But new Secretary Chuck Hagel is now at the helm of the Pentagon, and Rep. Duncan Hunter, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan and has made Peralta’s story a personal quest, told Marine Corps Times that the time is ripe to revisit the decision.

Peralta was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions, and that citation says he did scoop the grenade to himself, saving the lives of the other Marines with him as they tried to clear houses of insurgents.

Peralta’s backers question why the testimony of a half-dozen eyewitnesses has not been good enough to secure the Medal of Honor.

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