Rafael Peralta

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Rafael Peralta
Sgt. Rafael Peralta
Born (1979-04-07)April 7, 1979
Mexico City, Mexico
Died November 15, 2004(2004-11-15) (aged 25)
Killed in action in Fallujah, Iraq
Place of burial Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch USMC
Years of service 2000–2004
Rank Sergeant
Unit 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines
Battles/wars Operation Iraqi Freedom
*Operation Phantom Fury
Awards Navy Cross
Purple Heart

Sergeant Rafael Peralta (April 7, 1979 – November 15, 2004), assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, was a United States Marine killed in combat during Second Battle of Fallujah in the city of Fallujah, Iraq. In September 2008, his family was notified that he was awarded the Navy Cross, the second highest award a United States Marine can receive.[1] In February 2012, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced that a new Arleigh Burke-class destroyer was to be named the USS Rafael Peralta.


Rafael Peralta was born on April 7, 1979 in Mexico City. Son of Rafael and Rosa Peralta, the oldest of four, with siblings Icelda, Karen and Ricardo, he immigrated to the United States.[2] His father died in a workplace accident, leaving him as the head of the household.[3] Having graduted from Morse High School in 1997, he joined the United States Marine Corps as soon as he had a green card in 2000.[2] He later became an American citizen while serving in the Marine Corps.[4]

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.'"[5]

Killed in action[edit]

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.[6]

Sgt. 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.[5]

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.[5][7]

Sgt. Peralta is buried in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, California.[8]

Posthumous award effort[edit]

Commander of 1st Marine Division, LtGen. Richard Natonksi, initially recommended Peralta for the Medal of Honor;[9] this was based on recommendations by seven Marines who were there, or nearby, when Peralta died.[10] In December 2004, U.S. Congressman Bob Filner of California introduced legislation to award Sgt. Peralta the Medal of Honor.[11]

On September 17, 2008, Rafael Peralta's family was notified by Natonski that he would be receiving the Navy Cross instead of the Medal of Honor. 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.[12] The doubt arose due to some believing that Peralta was clinically dead when the insurgents threw the grenade.[13][14]

After the announcement that Peralta would receive the Navy Cross, numerous people spoke out in support of the Medal of Honor for Peralta.[15][16] 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.[17][18] Although calls to elevate the award have not been acted on to date, lawmakers have not given up and continue their efforts.[19] Of the seven service members nominations for the Medal of Honor that have reached the Secretary of Defense, Peralta's is the only nomination that has not been approved.[20]

In March 2012, the Marine Corps Times reported that Navy officials were reviewing new evidence related to Peralta's case, including two videos, one by Marine combat photographer Steve Sebby,[21][22] and a pathology report.[23] This evidence was provided by California Representative Duncan D. Hunter,[24] who served with 1st Battalion, 11th Marines during Operation Vigilant Resolve, the first battle for the city of Fallujah.[25] In December 2012, the Department of Defense announced that the Navy Cross will not be upgraded, with Secretary of Defense Panetta saying he did not want to overturn the decision of Secretary of Defense Gates.[26] In response, Hunter stated he will continue to seek appeals;[27] introducing a resolution, cosponsored by fellow California Representative Xavier Becerra, recommending that Peralta be awarded the Medal of Honor.[28] When Chuck Hagel replaced Panetta as the Secretary of Defense, Hunter hoped that Hagel could be more receptive than Panetta was regarding the new evidence.[29] In February 2014, however, Hagel announced that Peralta's Medal of Honor nomination would not be reconsidered.[30]

Awards and honors[edit]

Peralta's awards include:[31]

Bronze star
Navy Cross Purple Heart
Combat Action Ribbon Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal National Defense Service Medal
Iraq Campaign Medal w/ 1 campaign star Global War on Terrorism Service Medal Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon

Navy Cross Citation[edit]

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


for service as set forth in the following


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.[32]


On April 24, 2006, William Lansdowne, chief of police for the San Diego Police Department posthumously 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.[33]

On September 21, 2007, the 31st MEU Command Post, building 2533 Camp Hansen, Okinawa, was christened Peralta Hall in his honor.[34]

The History Channel created a one-hour documentary on Sgt Peralta, Act of Honor, shown on the THC Classroom.[35] The video is available in both Spanish and English.[36]

With the funds from Peralta's death benefit, his mother purchased a home in Chula Vista.[37] Peralta's younger brother, Ricardo, inspired by his brother's actions, enlisted in the Marine Corps, graduating School of Infantry in 2010.[3][38] Ricardo was honorably discharged in January 2014, having served in Afghanistan.[10]

Following legislative action by Representative Duncan D. Hunter,[39] Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced on February 16, 2012 that one of several new Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyers would be named the USS Rafael Peralta (DDG-115),[40][41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fuentes, Gidget (September 17, 2008). "Peralta to be given Navy Cross posthumously — No Medal of Honor for sergeant hit by ‘friendly fire’". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  2. ^ a b Rother, Caitlin (November 21, 2004). "Another tragedy for grieving family". San Diego Union Tribune (Union-Tribune Publishing Co.). Archived from the original on June 16, 2014. Retrieved August 4, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b Dan Lamothe (17 August 2010). "Peralta brother carries on legacy as Marine". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  4. ^ Gonzalez, Emilio (22 August 2006). "Citizenship through military service". San Diego Union Tribune. Archived from the original on June 16, 2014. Retrieved 17 December 2012. Peralta enlisted the same day he received his green card and earned his citizenship while on active duty. 
  5. ^ a b c North, Oliver (2004-12-16). "Hero in Fallujah: Marine Laid Himself on Top of Grenade to Save Rest of Squad". HumanEvents.com. Archived from the original on June 16, 2014. Retrieved 2006-05-30. 
  6. ^ Trowbridge, Gordon (20 November 2004). "Marine sacrifices his life for others in grenade blast". Seattle Times. Retrieved 15 March 2012. 
  7. ^ Ephron, Dan (February 11, 2008). "Where's the Respect?". Newsweek. 
  8. ^ Kathrine Zoepf (27 May 2010). "What Happened to Valor?". New York Times. Retrieved 15 March 2012. Peralta is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego. 
  9. ^ Jennifer Hlad (21 May 2015). "No medal upgrade for Marine who will receive Navy Cross in June". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved 21 May 2015. Lt. Gen. Richard Natonski, who at the time was commander of 1st Marine Division, recommended Peralta for the Medal of Honor. 
    Chelsea J. Carter (19 September 2008). "Mother to ask Congress to award son Medal of Honor". USA Today. Associated Press. Retrieved 21 May 2015. In a rare move, the Marine Corps Thursday released a redacted copy of the Medal of Honor nomination by Lt. Gen. Richard Natonski and an investigative report detailing the "friendly fire" shooting of the sergeant. 
  10. ^ a b Gretel C. Kovach (25 February 2014). "Peralta report rekindles medal debate". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  11. ^ Filner, Bob (January 2005). "A Salute to An American Patriot: Sgt. Rafael Peralta". Congressman Bob Filner's Congressional Update. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  12. ^ Zoroya, Gregg (September 17, 2008). "No Medal of Honor for Kaneohe Marine". Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  13. ^ Barnes, Julian E. (12 July 2011). "White House Considers Another Nominee for the Medal of Honor". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on June 16, 2014. Retrieved 13 July 2011. 
  14. ^ Perry, Tony (15 October 2008). "IRAQ: No change for Sgt. Peralta, Navy secretary says". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 13 July 2011. 
  15. ^ Fuentes, Gidget (October 5, 2008). "Former Marine protests Peralta MoH denial". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 2008-09-05. 
  16. ^ Lamothe, Dan (September 30, 2008). "Honor or insult for a fallen Marine? Marine who smothered grenade deserved Medal of Honor, family says, but he got the Navy Cross". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 2008-10-05. 
  17. ^ Fuentes, Gidget (September 23, 2008). "Lawmakers ask Bush to review Peralta award: Seek highest honor for Marine". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 2008-09-05. 
  18. ^ Cole, William (October 1, 2008). "More members of Congress ask for Peralta review". The Honolulu Advertiser (REPUBLISHED IN THE MARINE CORPS TIMES). 
  19. ^ Walker, Mark (2009-01-05). "MILITARY: Lawmakers not giving up on Marine denied Medal of Honor" (ARTICLE). Escondido: North County Times. Retrieved 2009-01-17. ; Walker, Mark (2009-01-30). "MILITARY: Hunter presses Peralta Medal of Honor case". North County Times. Retrieved 2009-01-31. ; "Citing Peralta, lawmaker seeks MOH review". Marine Corps Times (Army Times Publishing Company). 2009-01-30. Retrieved 2009-01-31. ; Cole, William (2009-01-30). "City urges Obama to review Marine's case". The Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved 2009-01-31. ; Gretel C. Kovach (15 March 2012). "New video evidence submitted for Peralta medal nomination: Navy Secretary reviewing Medal of Honor resubmission". San Diego Union Tribune. Archived from the original on June 16, 2014. Retrieved 15 March 2012. 
  20. ^ Freking, Kevin (August 2, 2009). "Lawmaker questions low Medal of Honor count". Associated Press. Retrieved August 4, 2009. It's unclear exactly how many soldiers have been nominated for the award from the two wars. But, seven have made it all the way to the secretary of defense, and six were approved. The exception is Sgt. Rafael Peralta of San Diego, Calif. Hunter said the Peralta case shows that a higher standard is being used for the medal than in previous wars. 
  21. ^ Gretel C. Kovach (15 March 2012). "Video evidence submitted in Peralta medal push". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  22. ^ Stephen Dinan (12 December 2012). "Top medal denied twice to Marine". Stephen Dinan. Archived from the original on June 16, 2014. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  23. ^ Cavallaro, Gina (March 20, 2012). "Navy reopens Marine Corps Medal of Honor case". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 2012-10-28. 
  24. ^ Wilkens, John (16 November 2012). "Medal of Honor Review Expected to Finish Soon". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  25. ^ Scott Horsley (18 April 2007). "Military Call Disrupts Hunters' House Plans". NPR. Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  26. ^ John Wilkens (12 December 2012). "Hunter: No Medal of Honor for Peralta". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  27. ^ Duncan Hunter (16 December 2012). "Peralta Deserves Medal of Honor for Heroism". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  28. ^ Mark Walker (16 January 2013). "Lawmaker won't leave Peralta behind: Rep. Duncan Hunter won’t quit in quest for Medal of Honor for fallen Marine". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  29. ^ Dan Lamothe (4 March 2013). "New Medal of Honor push started for Peralta". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 22 June 2013. 
  30. ^ Perry, Tony (21 February 2014). "Hagel refuses to reopen Medal of Honor bid for Sgt. Rafael Peralta". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on June 16, 2014. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  31. ^ "House Concurrent Resolution 19 HD1" (PDF). 25th Legislature. Hawaii House of Representatives. 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-05. 
  32. ^ "Navy Cross Citation" (PDF). The Secretary of the Navy. Retrieved 2009-01-31. 
  33. ^ "San Diego Police Honors Fallen Marine" (PDF). Flight Jacket (Marine Corps Air Station Miramar) 8 (17). April 28, 2006. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  34. ^ Mathews, Kenneth (January 31, 2014). "Mandeville native hopes to see fellow Marine posthumously awarded Medal of Honor". The Times-Picayune. Archived from the original on 2014-06-16. Retrieved 2014-06-16. 
  35. ^ "Act of Honor". THC Classroom. The History Channel. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  36. ^ "Act of Honor" (in Spanish). The History Channel. 
  37. ^ Perry, Tony (22 February 2014). "Doubt cast over circumstances of San Diego Marine's 2004 death". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  38. ^ Tony Perry (12 July 2010). "Marine hero's brother makes good on his promise". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  39. ^ Gary Robbins (8 December 2011). "Naming of warships causing dissent in Congress". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 22 December 2011. 
  40. ^ "Navy To Name Ships After Servicemen With Local Ties". KGTV San Diego. 15 February 2012. Archived from the original on June 16, 2014. Retrieved 16 February 2012. 
  41. ^ Perry, Tony (15 February 2012). "Navy to name ships after three San Diego war heroes". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on June 16, 2014. Retrieved 16 February 2012. 

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