CAMP PENDLETON, Calif., Sept. 17 (UPI) -- A U.S. Marine, likely hit by friendly fire who then pulled a grenade to his body to protect his comrades in Iraq, will be honored posthumously for his valor.
U.S. Navy Secretary Donald C. Winter said Wednesday Sgt. Rafael Peralta, who was born in Mexico and became a naturalized U.S. citizen after joining the Marines in 2000, will be awarded the Navy Cross for his life-saving actions in November 2004.
The 29-year-old Marine was wounded when caught in crossfire between insurgents and his unit during house-clearing efforts as part of an operation to recapture the city of Falluja from insurgents. When the insurgents threw a fragmentation grenade as they fled, Peralta, without hesitation or regard for his own safety, reached out and pulled the grenade to his body, absorbing the brunt of the blast and shielding fellow Marines only feet away, the Marines said in a news release. The explosion killed him.
An investigation the following year determined Peralta likely had been hit by "friendly fire," though that finding had no bearing on the decision to award him the Navy Cross, the Marines said.