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Yesterday, the Secretary of the Navy, Donald C. Winter, announced that Sgt. Rafael Peralta will be posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor for combat bravery by Marines, for his valor during combat operations in Iraq in November 2004.
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 JOl.n 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.
Unfortunately, there is some controversy as to whether Sgt. Peralta should have received the Medal of Honor instead of the Navy Cross. I don't pretend to know the arguments on either side very well or the standard on which each award is given. I only have two comments: (1) if Sgt. Peralta's actions don't warrant the Medal of Honor, what does? and (2) Sgt. Peralta could not hold any higher position of honor with my family.
The History Channel's summary:
On November 15, 2004, Sgt. Rafael Peralta died while fighting to secure a key insurgent stronghold in Iraq. Peralta and fellow Marines were ambushed by guerillas who then lobbed a grenade at them. Already seriously wounded, Peralta shielded his companions by covering the explosive device with his body, saving their lives and sacrificing his own. Watch Peralta's extraordinary journey from Tijuana, Mexico to San Diego to the streets of Iraq. Included are interviews with his widowed mother and three siblings in San Diego.
I urge you to watch and learn about a true hero, a Marine, an American.
I was contacted today by a representative of the History Channel who is doing research for an upcoming one hour documentary honoring the valor of Sgt. Rafael Peralta. Filming is expected to start in a few week with airing an unknown time thereafter.
I was contacted because of the terrific response I've had to one of my posts about Sgt. Rafael Peralta. I exchanged a dozen emails and had a half-hour telephone conversation with the representative and was able to supply her with quite a bit of information she did not have previously.
The representative agreed to let me post her name and contact information so that any friends or family members of Sgt. Peralta could contact her. If you knew Sgt. Peralta before he gave his life for our country and you are reading this during the month of August 2006 and you would like to contribute video footage, pictures or stories to the documentary, please contact:
(212) 210-1400, ext. 5343
One year ago today our nation lost one of its finest, a great hero, Sgt. Rafael Peralta.
My second post about this extraordinary man has received more hits, trackbacks and comments than anything else I've ever written about. The comments include ones from from Sgt. Peralta's brother, mother, service buddies and closest friends as well as from complete strangers, who like myself, inadequately express admiration of the man, gratitude for his service and prayers for his family.
I am closing this post to any comments and trackbacks. If you have something you want to say or wish to send a trackback, please do it in the post entitled: Sgt. Rafael Peralta - New Photos.
I recently posted about a true American Hero: Sgt. Rafael Peralta. As a result, I have had the very good fortune of corresponding with Brenda Saldivar who, along with her husband Eduardo, were good friends of Rafael Peralta. I asked Brenda if she had any pictures of Rafael other than the formal one of him in his Marine dress blues-the only one I could find on the internet.
It's easy to read about the events surrounding Rafael Peralta's life--and his death--and to look at his stoic image with his Marine cover pulled down to just above his eyes and conclude that there was something special or different about this man and that his final act of heroism was simply an expected act in keeping with his nature. However, I believe this diminishes the significance of his actions. I also believe placing Rafael Peralta on a pedestal apart and above ourselves is a defense mechanism. This way we can say to ourselves, "of course, he did that, he was different than you and me." This way we can avoid the self-realization that, no matter how much we'd like to think that we would act as Sgt. Peralta did, there is very little likelihood that we would have actually done what he did.
Here is Rafael Peralta in camouflage with his friends Brenda and Eduardo Saldivar and in red, signing to everyone "hang loose." Cpl. Saldivar and his wife were very close to Peralta having been stationed in Hawaii together. Rafael had already made plans to celebrate the first birthday party of the Saldivar's yet unborn child when he returned from Iraq.
Sgt. Rafael Peralta epitomized what it means to be a Marine and what it means to be an American. He joined the Marine Corps the day after he received his green card and became a U.S. Citizen while in uniform. In his parent's home, on his bedroom walls hung only three items: 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."
On November 15, 2004, Sgt. Rafael Peralta volunteered to go on the very dangerous mission of clearing the city of Fallujah of terrorists house by house, room by room. At the fourth house of the morning, the second room, Peralta lead his "stack" of six marines throwing open the door of the room to be cleared only to be met by three hiding terrorists waiting with their AK-47s. Peralta was immediately struck with multiple rounds impacting his chest and face and though mortally wounded managed to jump away so as to clear the line of fire for the other Marines. While automatic gun fire was exchanged one of the terrorists rolled a grenade into the room next to where Peralta lay dying. While I and any other person just shot in the face would be wholly self-absorbed in our own pain, Peralta had the presence of mind and strength of will to commit one last selfless act. He reached out grabbed the grenade and tucked it under himself--saving the lives of four Marines nearby.
I wanted to post these photos of Rafael to put another face on him--one of just a regular guy, an ordinary person. I believed that doing this would highlight even further the extraordinary nature of his actions on the battlefield. However, despite the images of Sgt. Rafael Peralta hanging out with his friends, drink in hand, lei around his neck, signing hang-loose, I still can't describe him as an ordinary guy or, otherwise, place him in any category with myself. But, I also now realize that his life and actions can never be diminished.
Sgt. Rafael Peralta was, at the same time, both a regular guy and a true hero. It is a contradiction that every friend of freedom and democracy should be glad existed in this amazing man. God Bless you Rafael Peralta.
[Update 8/2/06] This History Channel is going to be doing a one hour documentary honoring the valor of Sgt. Rafael Peralta. More info here.
[Update 10/19/06] Cpl. Eddie Rodriguez a good/best friend of Sgt. Peralta sent me the below photo taken at one of their favorite restaurants, Mexico Lindo, in Hawaii.
From left to right: Cpl. Saldivar Lopez, Sgt. Rafael Peralta, and Cpl. Eddie Rodriguez.
I've been meaning to post this for almost two months now. Better late than never, it is the story of a true hero:
On the morning of November 15, 2004, the men of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines awoke before sunrise and continued what they had been doing for seven days previously - cleansing the city of Fallujah of terrorists house by house.
At the fourth house they encountered that morning the Marines kicked in the door and "cleared" the front rooms, but then noticed a locked door off to the side that required inspection. Sgt. Rafael Peralta threw open the closed door, but behind it were three terrorists with AK-47s. Peralta was hit in the head and chest with multiple shots at close range.
Peralta's fellow Marines had to step over his body to continue the shootout with the terrorists. As the firefight raged on, a "yellow, foreign-made, oval-shaped grenade," as Lance Corporal Travis Kaemmerer described it, rolled into the room where they were all standing and came to a stop near Peralta's body.
But Sgt. Rafael Peralta wasn't dead - yet. This young immigrant of 25 years, who enlisted in the Marines when he received his green card, who volunteered for the front line duty in Fallujah, had one last act of heroism in him.
Peralta was proud to serve his adopted country. 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."
Not only can Rafael's family be proud of him, but his fellow Marines are alive because of him. As Sgt. Rafael Peralta lay near death on the floor of a Fallujah terrorist hideout, he spotted the yellow grenade that had rolled next to his near-lifeless body. Once detonated, it would take out the rest of Peralta's squad. To save his fellow Marines, Peralta reached out, grabbed the grenade, and tucked it under his abdomen where it exploded.
"Most of the Marines in the house were in the immediate area of the grenade," Cpl. Kaemmerer said. "We will never forget the second chance at life that Sgt. Peralta gave us."