The mother of fallen Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta is accusing a Washington Post reporter of “playing the race card” when interviewing her about accounts of her son’s heroic actions.
The accusation comes in the wake of a story by Ernesto Londono quoting Marines who say Peralta never covered a live grenade in Fallujah to save his comrades, as his Medal of Honor nomination attested. Two Marines in Peralta’s unit suggested the story of Peralta’s extraordinary heroism had been following his death, in light of the fact he was likely killed as a result of friendly fire, according to the story.
In the wake of that story, other Marines who served with Peralta have reaffirmed their account of events. One, Robert Reynolds, said he was in the grenade’s kill zone and owed his life to Peralta.
Peralta’s family is now firing back as well. Through family spokesman George Sabga, Rosa Peralta accused Londono of baiting her with questions about whether she believed Peralta was denied the medal because he was Hispanic, or Latino. Sabga also wrote that there was nothing new in accounts that Marines had been pressured to fabricate a story after Peralta’s death; this claim was made at the time of the 2005 command investigation, and the investigating officer found no evidence to support it.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., also penned a letter to the Post, challenging the story on a number of factual points.
“Each Marine in that room is entitled to their own truth,” he wrote in the letter, reviewed by Marine Corps Times. “That is something about combat that everyone must always respect–but the evidence does not lie. There is no protest that the eyewitness accounts have always differed, but to ignore the full body of evidence is unfortunate and fails to accurately describe the entire situation.”
A spokeswoman for the Washington Post told the Washington Times that the Post stands by its story.
Peralta was awarded the Navy Cross in 2008 for covering the a grenade to save fellow Marines, but he was recently denied the Medal of Honor for the third time. When Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced he would not reopen Peralta’s Medal of Honor case earlier this month, he said the higher award required “proof bey0nd a reasonable doubt.”