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I Marine Expeditionary Force

From Every Clime and Place

Peralta legacy lives on: USS Rafael Peralta to carry tradition of heroism

By Lance Cpl. Scott Reel | I Marine Expeditionary Force | September 25, 2013

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A photo of the newly named 65th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer is displayed during a ship naming ceremony aboard Naval Base San Diego, Calif., Sept. 20.  The USS Rafael Peralta was named after Navy Cross recipient Sgt. Rafael Peralta, who is credited with absorbing the impact of a grenade while fatally wounded to save the lives of his Marines during intense fighting in Fallujah, Iraq, in November 2004.

A photo of the newly named 65th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer is displayed during a ship naming ceremony aboard Naval Base San Diego, Calif., Sept. 20. The USS Rafael Peralta was named after Navy Cross recipient Sgt. Rafael Peralta, who is credited with absorbing the impact of a grenade while fatally wounded to save the lives of his Marines during intense fighting in Fallujah, Iraq, in November 2004. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Anna Albrecht)


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Photos of three newly named Navy ships are displayed during the ship naming ceremony aboard Naval Base San Diego, Calif., Sept. 20.

Photos of three newly named Navy ships are displayed during the ship naming ceremony aboard Naval Base San Diego, Calif., Sept. 20. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Anna Albrecht)


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I Marine Expeditionary Force Commanding General, Lt. General John. A. Toolan, addresses guests during a ship naming ceremony aboard Naval Base San Diego, Calif., Sept. 20.  Three ships were officially named as the USS John Finn, USS Ralph Johnson, and the USS Rafael Peralta.

I Marine Expeditionary Force Commanding General, Lt. General John. A. Toolan, addresses guests during a ship naming ceremony aboard Naval Base San Diego, Calif., Sept. 20. Three ships were officially named as the USS John Finn, USS Ralph Johnson, and the USS Rafael Peralta. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Anna Albrecht)


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Icela Donald, sister of Navy Cross recipient, Sgt. Rafael Peralta, and his mother, Rosa Peralta, are interviewed by news stations aboard Naval Base San Diego, Calif., Sept. 20. Peralta was honored during a ship-naming ceremony, the USS Rafael Peralta, the 65th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. The Mexican immigrant who joined the Corps as soon as he obtained his green card in 2000, deployed to Iraq with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and soon found himself in the middle of urban warfare during the second battle of Fallujah in 2004. Peralta and members of his squad kicked down a door and were instantly fired upon. He was fatally wounded and fell to the floor. Despite being wounded, he noticed a grenade only a foot from his head, reached out, grabbed it and placed it under his body to abosrb the impact, subsequently saving the lives of the other Marines in his squad.

Icela Donald, sister of Navy Cross recipient, Sgt. Rafael Peralta, and his mother, Rosa Peralta, are interviewed by news stations aboard Naval Base San Diego, Calif., Sept. 20. Peralta was honored during a ship-naming ceremony, the USS Rafael Peralta, the 65th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. The Mexican immigrant who joined the Corps as soon as he obtained his green card in 2000, deployed to Iraq with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and soon found himself in the middle of urban warfare during the second battle of Fallujah in 2004. Peralta and members of his squad kicked down a door and were instantly fired upon. He was fatally wounded and fell to the floor. Despite being wounded, he noticed a grenade only a foot from his head, reached out, grabbed it and placed it under his body to abosrb the impact, subsequently saving the lives of the other Marines in his squad. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Anna Albrecht)


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Family and friends of sailor John William Finn pose with Lt. Gen. John A. Toolan, I Marine Expeditionary Force commanding general, after a ship naming ceremony aboard Naval Base San Diego, Calif., Sept. 20. Finn, a Medal of Honor recipient, is credited with manning a .50-caliber machine gun while wounded during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Family and friends of sailor John William Finn pose with Lt. Gen. John A. Toolan, I Marine Expeditionary Force commanding general, after a ship naming ceremony aboard Naval Base San Diego, Calif., Sept. 20. Finn, a Medal of Honor recipient, is credited with manning a .50-caliber machine gun while wounded during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Anna Albrecht)


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Commander of the United States Special Operations Command, Admiral William McRaven greets the family of Navy Cross recipient, Sgt. Rafael Peralta, during a ship naming ceremony aboard Naval Base San Diego, Calif., Sept. 20. McRaven is best known for leading the mission to capture Osama bin Laden in 2011.

Commander of the United States Special Operations Command, Admiral William McRaven greets the family of Navy Cross recipient, Sgt. Rafael Peralta, during a ship naming ceremony aboard Naval Base San Diego, Calif., Sept. 20. McRaven is best known for leading the mission to capture Osama bin Laden in 2011. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Anna Albrecht)


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Rosa Peralta, mother of Navy Cross recipient Sgt. Rafael Peralta, holds the photo of the new Navy ship named after her son after a ceremony aboard Naval Base San Diego, Calif., Sept. 20. Peralta, a Mexican immigrant who joined the Marine Corps as soon as he obtained his green card in 2000, deployed to Iraq with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and soon found himself in urban warfare during the second battle of Fallujah. On Nov. 15, 2004, Peralta and his squad were clearing a house when he was fired upon. He fell to the floor fatally wounded. Despite those wounds, he noticed a grenade tossed by an insurgent, grabbed it and pressed it against his body to absorb the impact. He subsequently saved the lives of the other Marines in his squad.

Rosa Peralta, mother of Navy Cross recipient Sgt. Rafael Peralta, holds the photo of the new Navy ship named after her son after a ceremony aboard Naval Base San Diego, Calif., Sept. 20. Peralta, a Mexican immigrant who joined the Marine Corps as soon as he obtained his green card in 2000, deployed to Iraq with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and soon found himself in urban warfare during the second battle of Fallujah. On Nov. 15, 2004, Peralta and his squad were clearing a house when he was fired upon. He fell to the floor fatally wounded. Despite those wounds, he noticed a grenade tossed by an insurgent, grabbed it and pressed it against his body to absorb the impact. He subsequently saved the lives of the other Marines in his squad. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Anna Albrecht)


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I Marine Expeditionary Force commanding general, Lt. Gen. John A. Toolan, is photographed with  the family of Navy Cross recipient Sgt. Rafael Peralta after a ship naming ceremony aboard Naval Base San Diego, Calif., Sept. 20. Peralta, a Mexican immigrant who joined the Marine Corps as soon as he obtained his green card in 2000, deployed to Iraq with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and soon found himself in urban warfare during the second battle of Fallujah. On Nov. 15, 2004, Peralta and his squad were clearing a house when he was fired upon. He fell to the floor fatally wounded. Despite those wounds, he noticed a grenade tossed by an insurgent, grabbed it and pressed it against his body to absorb the impact. He subsequently saved the lives of the other Marines in his squad.

I Marine Expeditionary Force commanding general, Lt. Gen. John A. Toolan, is photographed with the family of Navy Cross recipient Sgt. Rafael Peralta after a ship naming ceremony aboard Naval Base San Diego, Calif., Sept. 20. Peralta, a Mexican immigrant who joined the Marine Corps as soon as he obtained his green card in 2000, deployed to Iraq with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and soon found himself in urban warfare during the second battle of Fallujah. On Nov. 15, 2004, Peralta and his squad were clearing a house when he was fired upon. He fell to the floor fatally wounded. Despite those wounds, he noticed a grenade tossed by an insurgent, grabbed it and pressed it against his body to absorb the impact. He subsequently saved the lives of the other Marines in his squad. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Anna Albrecht)


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SAN DIEGO -- One of the most heralded Marines from 2004’s Battle of Fallujah was honored during a ship-naming ceremony aboard Naval Base San Diego, Calif., Sept. 20. 

Friends and family watched as the USS Rafael Peralta took on the namesake of the late Navy Cross recipient, Sgt. Rafael Peralta. Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, announced the naming of the 65th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer in February 2012. 

The event was a proud moment for the Peralta family, and brought to life a moment of heroism performed almost one decade ago. 

Peralta, a Mexican immigrant who joined the Marine Corps as soon as he obtained his green card in 2000, deployed to Iraq as a scout leader with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and soon found himself leading a squad of Marines through house-to-house urban warfare during the second battle of Fallujah, Operation Al-Fajr. 
According to a Marine Corps article from Cpl. Travis J. Kaemmerer, who was embedded with Peralta’s squad, on Nov. 15, 2004, Peralta and members of his squad kicked down a door and were instantly fired upon—Peralta was fatally wounded and fell to the floor. 
In that instant, he noticed a grenade only a foot from his head, and without hesitation reached out, grabbed it and pressed it to his heart, subsequently saving the lives of the other Marines in his squad. 

“That kind of heroism, that kind of love for his fellow men did not fall on deaf ears,” said Lt. Gen. John A. Toolan, commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force. “And by naming this ship today, we remember that kind of heroism.”

Lance Cpl. Ricardo Peralta, an infantryman like his heroic brother, is currently assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, and accompanied his mother, Rosa, to the ceremony.  

“It’s really emotional for the family because his nomination for the Medal of Honor has now been turned down more than once,” Peralta said. “But we know that there’s not a single decoration or medal that they can give him that will make us more proud. We’re proud to the fullest.”

Ricardo Peralta, only 14 years old, received a letter from his brother before he left for Fallujah.

“Be proud of me, bro…and be proud of being an American,” Rafael Peralta wrote. 

The younger Peralta said his brother was always a leader, whether on the soccer field or battlefield. People often looked up to him. His brother’s leadership and sacrifice created a drive in the younger Peralta, which formed into a promise. 

“At his wake, I held his hands and promised him that I would join the Marine Corps for him, and not just join the military, but go into the infantry,” Peralta said.  

Peralta said people often recognize the name on his uniform nametape and ask if there’s any relation to the war hero or Sgt. Peralta. Many individuals have approved the lance corporal to tell him they were motivated to join the Marine Corps after hearing his brother’s story. 

“In boot camp, there are classes where his Navy Cross citation is read, so every Marine hears about him,” Peralta said. “That’s when it hit me. He truly is a legend. I had no idea, because I was not in the Marine Corps until that day.” 

When their father passed, it was Rafael’s responsibility to look over the family, a privilege that was passed to Ricardo too soon.   “Whenever they need anything, I’m always willing to help them,” Peralta said.

Despite the strength that Peralta has, he admits his mother has to be even stronger.  

“My mom is a strong woman. She’s dealt with my father’s death and my brother’s death,” Peralta said. “Emotionally, she’s sad about it, but we’re proud and happy to be here. I remember my mom telling me that it gives her comfort in all these ceremonies. We’ve been through so many ceremonies. It gives her comfort that her son is not forgotten.”

The ceremony ended with a look to the future, the rebirth of a hero. 

“Your loved one’s legacy will soon be forged in steel and sent to sea to support our national interests and those of our key partners abroad,” Toolan said.