I do not watch much television. Perhaps that's why I don't know much about what is going on with the military at the moment. I do keep up with politics, but mainly so I can advocate on the small business front for members of IBN. From time to time, I enjoy CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood, and one of the stories on this morning's broadcast moved me to tears. It was about the young man pictured here, Sgt. Rafael Perlata, who immigrated to America from Mexico.
While serving in Falluja in 2004, Sgt. Perlata was clearing houses. Enemy soldiers were lying in wait inside one of them, and they opened fire on Sgt. Perlata and his team. Sgt. Perlata, was shot in the head by accidental friendly fire as the men defended themselves. Immediately after Sgt. Perlata was shot, an enemy soldier tossed a grenade at him and his team. Eye witness accounts report that Sgt. Perlata expended his last moments of consciousness picking up the grenade and pulling it under his body to absorb the brunt of the blast. He died, and in the process, saved many.
At autopsy, it was determined by medical professionals that the nature of Sgt. Perlata's head wound made it impossible for him to have done anything, including pull a grenade to him, once the mortal head wound was sustained. While Sgt. Perlata was nominated to receive the Medal Of Honor, the highest military honor, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, citing the medical experts, declined to issue the award. Instead, he approved award of the second highest military honor, that of the Navy Cross.
The report supporting the Navy Cross award stated that the basis for the honor was Sgt. Perlata's use of his body to protect other Marines from a grenade that would have killed or seriously injured them all. If Mr. Gates accepts that it indeed happened, then the Navy Cross is not good enough for Sgt. Rafael Perlata. He deserves the Medal Of Honor.
You cannot explain the unexplainable, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. And we need to be OK with that, especially in situations like this.
It's Not Fair
As I watched his mother grieve over her son's remains, asking him to watch over her other son who is now serving in the Marines, I could not hold back the tears. As I watched with my children, I could not explain why someone who performed such an act of valor was not deserving of our nation's highest military honor.
“Life isn't fair,” is a lousy substitute for what you'd like to tell your children about their government. I don't know the specific standards that apply in order to win the Medal Of Honor, but I do know honor when I see it. And Sgt. Perlata acted honorably. What a leader he was. What a husband and father he would have been.
No Skin In The Game
As he was returning home for Christmas in 1985, my young cousin, Private Second Class Vicky S. Perry of Enfield, North Carolina, was killed along with the rest of the 101st Airborne Division of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, when their place crashed during takeoff over Gander, Newfoundland. Since then, I have not lost a single family member or friend to war or war-related occurrences.
I have no real skin in the game. It's easy for me to sit at my comfortable desk with my latte and say, “Great job, Sgt. Perlata! You deserve a medal.” It's a strangely uncomfortable feeling, because I am not acquainted with the kind of grief that accompanies his death.
I am no less moved, however, from the outside looking in.
I feel constrained, even if only for a moment, to use this blog to thank, not just Sgt. Perlata and his team, but all of the men and women who perform bravely every day so I can enjoy a latte and Wi-Fi, and run my business in peace. I am humbled by and grateful for your sacrifice. May you all come home soon. Thank you.
Do you think Sgt. Perlata deserves the Medal Of Honor?