Rafael Peralta

by Karen Grimord on July 1, 2010

Sgt. Rafael Peralta—July 2010 Shipment Honoree

Rafael Peralta was born on April 7, 1979 in Mexico City. Son of Rafael and Rosa Peralta, the oldest of four siblings Icelda, Karen and Ricardo. He immigrated to the United States, graduated from Morse High School in 1997, and joined the United States Marine Corps as soon as he had a green card in 2000. He later became an American citizen while serving in the Marine Corps.

According to accounts, Peralta served the United States with enthusiasm and patriotism: “In his parent’s home, on his bedroom walls hung only three items – a copy of the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights and his boot camp graduation certificate. Before he set out for Fallujah, he wrote to his 14-year old brother, ‘be proud of me, bro…and be proud of being an American.'”

Killed in action

On November 15, 2004, 25 year old Sgt. Peralta, deployed to Iraq as a scout team leader assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, along with his team was ordered to clear houses in the Operation Phantom Fury. Peralta was not assigned to enter the buildings, but chose to do so anyway.

Sergeant Peralta led his team through a series of house clearings before charging into the fourth house. He found two rooms empty on the ground floor. Peralta opened a third door and was hit multiple times with AK-47 fire, leaving him severely wounded. He dropped to the floor and moved aside in order to allow the Marines behind him to return fire.

The insurgents responded by throwing a grenade at the Marines. The two Marines with Sgt. Peralta tried to get out of the room but could not. Sgt. Peralta was still conscious on the floor and reports indicate that despite his wounds, he was able to reach for the grenade and pull it under his body absorbing the majority of the lethal blast and shrapnel which killed him instantly, but saved the lives of his fellow Marines.

Sgt. Peralta is buried in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, California.

Posthumous award

In December 2004, U.S. Congressman Bob Filner of California introduced legislation to award Sgt. Peralta the Medal of Honor. As of January 22, 2008, a Medal of Honor award for Sgt. Peralta was awaiting presidential approval.

On September 17, 2008, Rafael Peralta’s family was notified by LtGen. Richard Natonski that he would not receive the Medal of Honor, but the Navy Cross instead, the service’s second highest award for valor. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates rejected the Marine Corps’ recommendation, concluding that his appointed panel unanimously confirmed that his actions did not meet the standard of “without any possibility of error or doubt”. The central argument posed relates to whether the already mortally-wounded Peralta could have intentionally reached for the grenade, shielding his fellow Marines from the blast. In a Marine Corps investigation of the attack, Natonski said, “I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt” that the gravely wounded Peralta covered the grenade.

Since the announcement that Peralta would receive the Navy Cross instead of the Medal of Honor, numerous groups and individuals have spoken out in support of the Medal of Honor for Peralta. The Congressional delegations from California and Hawaii, as well as the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, have requested a Presidential review of Gates’ decision against a Medal of Honor award. Although rebuked, efforts continue for elevation of the award. Of the seven servicemembers nominations for the Medal of Honor that have reached the Secretary of Defense, Peralta’s is the only nomination that has not been approved.

Awards and honors

Peralta’s awards include: Navy Cross, Purple Heart Combat Action Ribbon, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal with 1 service star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.


Navy Cross Citation

The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the NAVY CROSS posthumously to

SERGEANT
RAFAEL PERALTA
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS

for service as set forth in the following

CITATION:

For extraordinary heroism while serving as Platoon Guide with 1st Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 3d Marines, Regimental Combat Team 7, 1st Marine Division, in action against Anti-Coalition Forces in support of Operation AL FAJR, in Fallujah, Iraq on 15 November 2004. Clearing scores of houses in the previous three days, Sergeant Peralta’ asked to join an under strength squad and volunteered to stand post the night of 14 November, allowing fellow Marines more time to rest. The following morning, during search and attack operations, while clearing the seventh house of the day, the point man opened a door to a back room and immediately came under intense, close-range automatic weapons fire from multiple insurgents. The squad returned fire, wounding one insurgent. 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. 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. Sergeant Peralta succumbed to his wounds. By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty, Sergeant Peralta reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.


Legacy

On April 24, 2006, William Lansdowne, chief of police for the San Diego Police Department awarded Sgt. Peralta the honorary title of San Diego police officer for his heroism in Iraq. Peralta had long wanted to be a San Diego police officer. The badge was presented to Rafael’s mother, Rosa Peralta.

On September 21, 2007, the 31 MEU, Command Post, building 2533 Camp Hansen, Okinawa, was christened Peralta Hall in his honor.

The History Channel created a one-hour documentary on Sgt Peralta, “Act of Honor”, shown on the THC Classroom. The video is available in both Spanish and English.

Posted by Black Five

When Taps is played at dusk, it has a completely different meaning than when Taps is played during the day. No soldier really wants to hear it played during daylight. For when the bugle plays Taps in the daylight…that means a soldier has fallen…There is a belief among some that Taps is the clarion call to open the gates of heaven for the fallen warrior and letting them know to “Safely Rest”…

Marine Sergeant Rafael Peralta earned his rest the hard way. His name should be discussed more often than the celebrities of the day…

Sergeant Peralta was from Company A, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment – his job was that of leading the scout section. In November of 2004, Peralta was 25 years old and not an American citizen. He joined the Marines on the very day that he received his green card. He later earned his citizenship as a Marine.

On November 15, 2004, the Marines were busy clearing houses in the Battle for Fallujah. Peralta, as scout team leader, was responsible for locating the enemy and directly ground forces to destroy them. He was not supposed join in the assaults inside the homes.

However, Rafael Peralta was not the kind of guy to stand around watching things happen. He wanted to make things happen. He routinely requested to join the assault teams entering the insurgent filled houses.

During the fateful assault on the 15th, after clearing three houses, Peralta lead the charge into the fourth house, finding two rooms empty on the ground floor. Upon opening a third door, Peralta was hit multiple times with AK-47 fire – severely wounded, he dropped to the floor and moved away in order to give the Marines behind him an opportunity to fire on the insurgents.

As the battle continued, the insurgents lobbed a grenade at the Marines. Two Marines were trapped in the room with Peralta. When they saw the grenade, they tried to get out of the blast area but were trapped.

Peralta, bleeding out on the floor, reached for the grenade and pulled it to his midsection, cradling the grenade before it cooked off.

The grenaded exploded, killing Peralta and critically wounding another Marine, the others all survived because Peralta absorbed the majority of the lethal blast.


Marine sacrifices his life for others in grenade blast

By Gordon Trowbridge
The Army Times (Seattle Times story)

 

FALLUJAH, Iraq — Sgt. Rafael Peralta built a reputation as a man who always put his Marines’ interests ahead of his own.

He showed that again, when he made the ultimate sacrifice of his life Tuesday, by shielding his fellow Marines from a grenade blast. “It’s stuff you hear about in boot camp, about World War II and Tarawa Marines who won the Medal of Honor,” said Lance Cpl. Rob Rogers, 22, of Tallahassee, Fla., one of Peralta’s platoon mates in 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.

Peralta, 25, as platoon scout, wasn’t even assigned to the assault team that entered the insurgent safe house in northern Fallujah, Marines said. Despite an assignment that would have allowed him to avoid such dangerous duty, he regularly asked squad leaders if he could join their assault teams, they said.

One of the first Marines to enter the house, Peralta was wounded in the face by rifle fire from a room near the entry door, said Lance Cpl. Adam Morrison, 20, of Tacoma, who was in the house when Peralta was first wounded.

Moments later, an insurgent rolled a fragmentation grenade into the area where a wounded Peralta and the other Marines were seeking cover.

As Morrison and another Marine scrambled to escape the blast, pounding against a locked door, Peralta grabbed the grenade and cradled it into his body, Morrison said. While one Marine was badly wounded by shrapnel from the blast, the Marines said they believe more lives would have been lost if not for Peralta’s selfless act.

“He saved half my fire team,” said Cpl. Brannon Dyer, 27, of Blairsville, Ga. The Marines said such a sacrifice would be perfectly in character for Peralta, a Mexico native who lived in San Diego and gained U.S. citizenship after joining the Marines.

He’d stand up for his Marines to an insane point,” Rogers said.

Rogers and others remembered Peralta as a squared-away Marine, so meticulous about uniform standards that he sent his camouflage uniform to be pressed while training in Kuwait before entering Iraq.

But mostly they remembered acts of selflessness: offering career advice, giving a buddy a ride home from the bar, teaching salsa dance steps in the barracks.

While Alpha Company was still gathering information, and a formal finding on Peralta’s death is likely months away, not a single Marine in Alpha Company doubted the account of Peralta’s act of sacrifice.

“I believe it,” said Alpha’s commander, Capt. Lee Johnson. “He was that kind of Marine.”

 

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