A deceased Marine was denied a posthumous Medal of Honor award after military officials were unable to prove his final actions during combat.
Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta served heroically in Iraq in 2004 and was in the running for the award, but a recent investigation into his combat duty denied him being a Medal of Honor recipient. Pentagon officials said his actions during combat were not provable enough to make the full judgment call. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta elaborated on Thursday in a statement reported by The Washington Times as saying:
"In light of the strict standards that have been established for awarding the Medal of Honor and the fact that a thorough review of the evidence has not indicated 'proof beyond a reasonable doubt,' I cannot in good conscience change the recommendation of Secretary Robert Gates ... [Evidence casts] more than a reasonable doubt.
To disregard this evidence, or to abandon the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard for the MOH, would also be unfair to all others considered for the MOH but whose heroic actions fell just short of this rigorous evidentiary standard."
Officials had to prove Peralta's heroic actions during a battle with insurgents in Fallujah when he was fatally hit in the head by friendly fire. When Peralta fell, he reportedly cradled a thrown grenade in order to absorb the device's impact and shielded his fellow troops from the blast.
Peralta previously received the Navy Cross for his bravery during combat.
However, the recent decision may be in the appeal process, as Peralta's honor is defended by Congressman Duncan Hunter, according to Marine Corps Times.
"There was absolutely no disagreement that Sergeant Peralta's actions were in the spirit and tradition of the Medal of Honor," Rep. Hunter said. "Secretary Gates manufactured the doubt - the same doubt that led Secretary Panetta not to award the Medal of Honor."