CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — The family of one of the Iraq war's most celebrated Marine heroes has accepted the nation's second-highest award for valor seven years after the Pentagon denied him the Medal of Honor.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus posthumously bestowed the Navy Cross on Sgt. Rafael Peralta for falling on a grenade during the battle for Fallujah in November 2004.

His mother, Rosa, accepted the medal during a ceremony Monday at Camp Pendleton.

Mabus told about 200 invited guests that Peralta was true patriot. He declined to comment on the controversy to reporters but noted the Navy has named a missile destroyer after the Marine.

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The Marine Corps nominated Peralta for the Medal of Honor, but the Pentagon denied it after questions were raised about whether it was a conscious act by the Marine.

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