At least two nominations for servicemembers deserving of the Medal of Honor are inexplicably bogged down in the bureaucratic pipeline, Rep. Duncan Hunter said in a letter this week to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Hunter, a California Republican and a combat veteran, reiterated his support for awarding the medal to Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta and to express concern that a Medal of Honor for Army Capt. Will Swenson may have been scuttled because Swenson questioned the rules of engagement following the 2009 battle of Ganjgal.
Peralta died in 2004 and his Medal of Honor nomination was downgraded to a Navy Cross because of a disagreement about whether Peralta, already wounded, consciously pulled a live grenade under his body to shield fellow troops from the blast. Hunter contends that new evidence proves Peralta did so knowingly.
Swenson’s case, resulting from the same battle for which former Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor, is equally controversial. A recent McClatchy Newspapers report said a military investigation found that Swenson’s Medal of Honor nomination had been “lost” during the approval process and that there may have been an effort to kill the nomination entirely.
Swenson is said to have repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire as he attempted to retrieve fallen troops. After the battle, which resulted in dozens of casualties as well as reprimands for some leaders involved, Swenson complained that airpower restrictions had left he and his fellow troops vulnerable.
In the letter, Hunter expresses concern that the nominations “have been unfairly derailed by what appears to be nothing more than bureaucratic influence and arbitrary reasoning.”
“In the case of Peralta specifically, multiple and conforming eyewitness accounts were blatantly ignored, along with indisputable evidence,” he wrote. “In Swenson’s situation, the fact that his nomination was somehow lost, only to resurface when his story started to gain traction within the news media, is equally troubling.”