Rafael Peralta was born April 7, 1979 in Mexico City. He graduated from San Diego's Morse High School in 1997. But he had to wait to receive his green card before he could enlist. In 2000, he received it, and on that very day he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps as a rifleman. He would later become a U.S. citizen while serving.
On November 15, 2004, Peralta and his squad were heavily engaged in Operation al Fajr, commonly known as the second Battle of Fallujah. They successfully cleared six houses that morning. At the seventh house, the point man in the squad opened the door to a back room and immediately came under close-range automatic weapons fire from multiple insurgents. It was an ambush.
While attempting to get out of the line of fire, Peralta was severely wounded. As the insurgents fled the building, one threw a grenade that came to rest near Peralta's head. Without hesitation, he pulled the grenade to his body to absorb the brunt of the blast saving the lives of the Marines that were only a few feet away. Peralta succumbed to his wounds.
He pulled the live grenade to his body to absorb the blast which he knew would kill him and save his fellow Marines.
Let's pause for a moment.
For his actions, Sgt Peralta was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross and Purple Heart. He is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetary in San Diego. In 2007, the command post for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit at Camp Hansen in Okinawa named "Peralta Hall" in his honor.
To further honor the heroism of Sgt Peralta, the U.S. Navy, in 2017, commissioned an Arleigh Burke destroyer the U.S.S. Rafael Peralta (DDG-115). On the ship's website, in welcoming new sailors to the Peralta, the ship's captain states: "Our ship emblazons proudly the name of an American hero, a Marine who sacrificed his own life so others might live. Our motto, 'Fortis Ad Finem', which translates to 'Courageous to the End', is a testament of his dedication to his country and his fellow Marines. Every Sailor in Rafael Peralta must strive to earn the right to represent such fortitude and devotion."
As you enjoy the long Memorial Day weekend, I ask that you remember Sgt Peralta, and all of the more than 4,300 Americans that gave their last full measure of devotion during the Second Iraqi Conflict.
Sources: Sergeant Rafael Peralta (navy.mil)