The family of one of the most celebrated Marine Corps heroes of the Iraq war will soon accept the nation’s second-highest award for valor on his behalf, nearly 11 years after he was killed in combat and almost seven years after the Pentagon made the controversial decision to deny him the Medal of Honor.

Sgt. Rafael Peralta will soon receive the Navy Cross posthumously during a ceremony at Camp Pendleton, Calif., said his younger brother, Ricardo. Peralta’s mother, Rosa, still believes the sergeant deserves the nation’s highest award for heroism in combat, but is tired after years of appeals. She had refused to accept the Navy Cross, citing her belief he deserved the higher award.

“That decision does not mean that she was willing to settle,” Ricardo, 24, told The Washington Post in a phone interview. “It just means that she grew tired of it.”

Marine Corps officials said Friday that the ceremony will be held June 8.

The older Peralta brother was 25 when he died Nov. 15, 2004, in house-to-house fighting during the bloody Battle of Fallujah. Marines there at the time said he smothered a grenade in his dying moments after being wounded in the head by a ricocheting rifle round, saving several lives. The Marine Corps and Navy Department both approved the Medal of Honor, but the award ultimately was denied by then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in September 2008 after a lengthy investigation.

Gates said in his memoir published last year that he approved the Medal of Honor for Peralta, but rescinded his recommendation to the White House after a complaint was made to the Defense Department Inspector General’s Office that said Peralta could not have acted consciously to cover the grenade because of the wound he had suffered. The inspector general planned to carry out an investigation unless Gates took action to address the concerns, he wrote.

In an unprecedented move, the secretary assembled a team that included a previous Medal of Honor recipient, a retired Army general, a civilian neurosurgeon and two civilian forensic pathologists to review information in Peralta’s nomination for the nation’s highest valor award. They each independently recommended that the Medal of Honor be denied, defense officials said at the time. Gates denied the award, citing their recommendations.

The decision outraged Peralta’s family and many Marines, who expressed disbelief that the Medal of Honor would be denied by a civilian leader at the Pentagon after it had been approved by top U.S. generals. The Navy Department approved the Navy Cross instead, and stated in the award citation how it believed the fallen Marine was killed.

“While attempting to maneuver out of the line of fire, Sergeant Peralta was shot and fell mortally wounded. After the initial exchange of gunfire, the insurgents broke contact, throwing a fragmentation grenade as they fled the building,” it said. “The grenade came to rest near Sergeant Peralta’s head. Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, Sergeant Peralta reached out and pulled the grenade to his body, absorbing the brunt of the blast and shielding fellow Marines only feet away.”

Numerous campaigns have been taken up to have Peralta’s case reviewed, but Gates’s successor at the Pentagon, Leon Panetta, found in 2012 that new evidence presented — a pathology report and videos recorded in the immediate aftermath of the blast scene by Marines present at the time — were not enough to overcome earlier documentation that had raised doubts.

“I cannot, consistent with my responsibilities, disregard this evidence, as they cast more than a reasonable doubt on what happened November 14, 2004,” Panetta said in a letter to Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R.Calif), misidentifying the date of Peralta’s death. “To disregard this evidence, or to abandon the beyond-a-reasonable doubt standard for the MOH, would be unfair to all others considered for the MOH but whose heroic actions fell just short of this rigorous evidentiary standard.”

Panetta’s successor, Chuck Hagel, also found that Peralta’s case did not meet the “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” standard for the award in 2014. Hagel was replaced as defense secretary by Ashton B. Carter this year.

Further complicating the situation, three Marines in Peralta’s unit in Fallujah raise doubts about the case last year as Hagel made his decision, saying in interviews with The Washington Post that other Marines there when he died decided to memorialize him by saying he had covered the grenade.

Other Marines present fired back, telling the independent Marine Corps Times that they would not be alive had it not been for Peralta’s heroism. All involved were asked to to submit witness statements explaining what they saw, they said, and had different points of view based on their locations.

“I was within arms’ reach of Peralta when Peralta put the grenade under his body,” one of them, Robert Reynolds, told Marine Corps Times. “If he hadn’t done that, I would have been dead. Facts don’t lie.”

Ricardo Peralta said the campaigns to get his brother’s award upgraded and the subsequent disappointments have been difficult on his family, and expressed frustration that “coward” defense secretaries didn’t upgrade the award when they had the chance.

“For me, it’s pretty disappointing,” he said. “It’s almost like a slap in the face.”

The younger Peralta joined the Marines in 2010 when he was 19, and went on to serve as  an infantryman — like his brother — deploying to Jordan and later to Sangin, Afghanistan, in late 2011 through spring 2012. He is now a full-time student at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, Calif., he said.

Ricardo Peralta said his family has appreciated support from the Navy and Marine Corps, which have named buildings after the fallen Marine and will christen a destroyer the USS Rafael Peralta later this year. The family still holds out hope that the fallen Marine will get the Medal of Honor someday, even if it is generations from now, he said.

A spokesman for Hunter, who has pressed for Peralta to receive the Medal of Honor for years, said the congressman hopes to attend the ceremony. The effort to upgrade the award is not yet over, he added.

“This is far from a done deal. The overwhelming evidence still points to the Medal of Honor,” Kasper said. “There are still four eyewitness accounts. There is video and photo evidence — and a piece of the grenade fuse still lodged in the body armor. This case became political, unfortunately, so time and distance will help mute a lot the back and forth that occurred. Bottom line is the people who were surrounding Gates, Panetta and Hagel need to pass on. Only once they are long gone and things have a chance to reset can there be any real guarantee of objective consideration.”

Retired Marine Gen. James T. Conway, who commanded Marines in Fallujah and was later the commandant of the Marine Corps when Peralta’s Medal of Honor was denied, said in a brief phone interview Thursday that he had not heard the news, but was glad to hear the family is willing to accept the Navy Cross to honor Peralta, he said.

“I’ll tell you, the Navy Cross is the second-highest honor in the naval services,” Conway said. “It’s important to appreciate the importance of the award.”

The younger Peralta brother said he is comforted to know that his brother saved the lives of good men as he died.

“My brother was one of those Marines who didn’t really care about medals or decorations. He just wanted to be a grunt,” Ricardo said. “He just wanted to be an ‘0311,’ an infantry rifleman. He told me to be proud of him because he was doing what he wanted to do. In the end, Navy Cross, Medal of Honor, it doesn’t matter. It’s all good.”

This story has been updated with Marine Corps confirmation of the Navy Cross ceremony.