LOS ANGELES - Richard Perez made just one request when he said goodbye to his son on a tarmac at March Air Reserve Base just east of here.
"Get back here no matter what," Perez told Rich Jr.

Six months later, and one week shy of his return from Iraq, the 19-year-old Marine was killed when a truck accidentally crushed him.

At the funeral, Perez asked a military officer about his son's Purple Heart ó and was told the military issues the honor only to those killed or wounded in combat. There would be no special medal for Richard Perez Jr.

"These are honors, the highest things that can be bestowed on these guys," Perez Sr. said recently. "That's all you're really left with."

Following his son's death in February 2005, Perez joined a small but growing group of families who are petitioning Congress to create an alternative medal honoring those killed in a war zone but away from combat. In Iraq and Afghanistan, that amounts to more than 600 men and women ó more than 20 percent of the deaths so far.

Leading the effort is Eleanor Dachtler, who lost her 19-year-old son during an insurgent attack in Iraq and received her son's Purple Heart posthumously. Currently, the families of those who die non-combat deaths say they receive medals honoring their loved one's service, but nothing recognizing their death.

"Anybody who goes over there and gives their life for their country deserves to be recognized," said Dachtler, whose son, Lance Cpl. Nicholas Anderson of Las Vegas, was killed in November 2004. "How can you sit there and say one person's life is less valuable than another person's life?"

Memorial Day provides her another compelling reminder.

"If we're going to remember them, let's do it right," she said.

Dachtler has been urging people to contact their congressional representatives about the proposed new medal. And she has enlisted Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who has instructed his staff to speak with the Pentagon about it.

Rest of the article: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060528/...idental_deaths