I've read many accounts of the gunfight in which Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta lost his life.  Some say he died instantly from head injuries received, others say he moved to protect the members of his unit from a live grenade after sustaining those injuries. Some of the Marines he served with say his actions saved them from the path of the grenade shrapnel, and probably saved their lives.  Still others say they were asked to remember things they hadn't actually seen, and recanted.  I believe all those Marines are telling the truth.  And if just one other man in his unit was saved through Sgt. Peralta's reaching out for a live grenade, the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Nation's highest military achievement, should be bestowed upon him.

Well, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel refused last week an appeal to re-open the case being made for Peralta to be awarded the Medal of Honor.  In doing so, he agreed with the previous rulings, and sealed the topic, probably forever.  I don't think Sgt. Peralta would care one way or another.  Most of the Marines I have had the honor of knowing don't serve for medals, or other accolades that are so important to the rest of us.  I believe they have a sense of duty that goes deeper than most of us can comprehend.  I know Sgt. Peralta did.  So I don't think he would care.  He was awarded the Iron Cross from the Navy after his death, but his family hasn't accepted it, hoping to keep the case for a CMH open somehow.

What I do know about Peralta is this:  He enlisted in the Marine Corps as soon as possible after getting his citizenship papers in the mail, to serve the dream of a country he had not yet lived, and defend a freedom he had not yet tasted.  I owe it to him to live the best life I can.  Thanks for your service, and ultimate sacrifice Sgt. Peralta.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)