Sgt. Rafael Peralta
April 7, 1979|
Mexico City, Mexico
|Died||November 15, 2004
Fallujah, Iraq †
|Place of burial||Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Marine Corps|
|Years of service||2000–2004|
|Unit||1st Battalion, 3rd Marines|
|Battles/wars||Operation Iraqi Freedom
*Operation Phantom Fury
Sergeant Rafael Peralta (April 7, 1979 – November 15, 2004), assigned to the 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. In February 2012, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced that a new Arleigh Burke-class destroyer would be named the USS Rafael Peralta.
Peralta was born on April 7, 1979 in Mexico City. The son of Rafael and Rosa Peralta and the oldest of four (his siblings are Icela, Karen and Ricardo), he emigrated to the United States. Peralta's father died in a workplace accident, leaving him head of the household. After his 1997 graduation from Morse High School in San Diego, he joined the United States Marine Corps when he received his green card in 2000 and became an American citizen while serving in the Marine Corps.
Peralta reportedly served the United States with enthusiasm and patriotism: "In his parents' 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.'"
On November 15, 2004, the 25-year-old Sgt. Peralta deployed to Iraq as a scout team leader assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment to clear houses in Operation Phantom Fury. Although Peralta was not assigned to enter the buildings, he did so.
Peralta led his team through three house-clearings before charging into the fourth house. After finding two rooms empty on the ground floor he opened a third door and was hit multiple times with AK-47 fire, leaving him severely wounded. Peralta fell to the floor, moving aside to enable the Marines behind him to return fire.
The insurgents threw a hand grenade at the Marines, and the two Marines with Peralta tried to get out of the room but could not. Still conscious on the floor, despite his wounds Peralta reportedly pulled the grenade under his body (absorbing most of the blast and shrapnel). He died instantly, but saved the lives of his fellow Marines. Sgt. Peralta is buried in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, California.
First Marine Division commander Lt Gen Richard Natonksi recommended Peralta for the Medal of Honor, based on reports by seven Marines present (or nearby) when he died. In December 2004, Congressman Bob Filner of California introduced legislation awarding Sgt. Peralta the Medal of Honor.
On September 17, 2008, Natonski notified Peralta's family that he would receive the Navy Cross instead of the Medal of Honor. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates rejected the Marine Corps recommendation, saying that his panel unanimously confirmed that Peralta's actions did not meet the Medal of Honor standard "without any possibility of error or doubt". Gates' central argument related to whether the already-mortally-wounded Peralta could have intentionally reached for the grenade, shielding his fellow Marines from the blast. During a Marine Corps investigation of the attack Natonski had said, "I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt" that the gravely-wounded Peralta covered the grenade. Doubt arose when some believed that Peralta was clinically dead when the grenade was thrown.
After it was announced that Peralta would receive the Navy Cross instead, a number of people requested reconsideration, with the congressional delegations from California and Hawaii and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus requesting a presidential review of Gates' decision. Lawmakers continued their efforts; of seven nominations for the Medal of Honor reaching the Secretary of Defense, Peralta's was the only one not approved.
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) and a pathology report. The evidence was provided by California Representative Duncan D. Hunter, who served with 1st Battalion, 11th Marines during Operation Vigilant Resolve (the first battle for Fallujah). In December 2012 the Department of Defense announced that the Navy Cross would not be upgraded, with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta saying that he did not want to overturn his predecessor's decision. Hunter said he would appeal, introducing a resolution co-sponsored by fellow California Representative Xavier Becerra which recommended that Peralta receive the Medal of Honor. When Chuck Hagel replaced Panetta as Secretary of Defense, Hunter hoped he would be more receptive to the new evidence. However, in February 2014 Hagel announced that Peralta's Medal of Honor nomination would not be reconsidered. In June 2015 Peralta's mother, Rosa Maria, received the Navy Cross at a Camp Pendleton ceremony.
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 campaign star||Global War on Terrorism Service Medal||Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon|
"The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the NAVY CROSS posthumously to
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
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."
On April 24, 2006, San Diego Police Department Chief of Police William Lansdowne 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, and the badge was presented to his mother.
On September 21, 2007, the 31st MEU command-post building 2533 at Camp Hansen, Okinawa was renamed Peralta Hall in his honor. The History Channel produced a one-hour documentary in Spanish and English about Peralta, Act of Honor, which appeared on THC Classroom. 
With Peralta's death benefit, his mother purchased a home in Chula Vista. Inspired by his older brother's actions, Rafael's brother Ricardo also enlisted in the Marine Corps and graduated from the School of Infantry in 2010. He was honorably discharged in January 2014, after serving in Afghanistan.
Following legislative action by Congressman Hunter, 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), According to Peralta's mother, the destroyer will carry his Navy Cross. In Quantico, Virginia, Peralta's rifle and the last letter he wrote will be placed on display.
- 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.
- 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.
- Dan Lamothe (17 August 2010). "Peralta brother carries on legacy as Marine". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
- 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.
- 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.
- Trowbridge, Gordon (20 November 2004). "Marine sacrifices his life for others in grenade blast". Seattle Times. Retrieved 15 March 2012.
- Ephron, Dan (February 11, 2008). "Where's the Respect?". Newsweek.
- 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.
- 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.
- Gretel C. Kovach (25 February 2014). "Peralta report rekindles medal debate". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
- Filner, Bob (January 2005). "A Salute to An American Patriot: Sgt. Rafael Peralta". Congressman Bob Filner's Congressional Update. Retrieved 2008-09-18.
- Zoroya, Gregg (September 17, 2008). "No Medal of Honor for Kaneohe Marine". Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved 2008-09-18.
- 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.
- Perry, Tony (15 October 2008). "IRAQ: No change for Sgt. Peralta, Navy secretary says". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 13 July 2011.
- Fuentes, Gidget (October 5, 2008). "Former Marine protests Peralta MoH denial". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 2008-09-05.
- 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.
- Fuentes, Gidget (September 23, 2008). "Lawmakers ask Bush to review Peralta award: Seek highest honor for Marine". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 2008-09-05.
- Cole, William (October 1, 2008). "More members of Congress ask for Peralta review". The Honolulu Advertiser (Republished in the Marine Corps Times).
- 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.
- 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.
- Gretel C. Kovach (15 March 2012). "Video evidence submitted in Peralta medal push". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 17 December 2012.
- 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.
- Cavallaro, Gina (March 20, 2012). "Navy reopens Marine Corps Medal of Honor case". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 2012-10-28.
- Wilkens, John (16 November 2012). "Medal of Honor Review Expected to Finish Soon". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
- Scott Horsley (18 April 2007). "Military Call Disrupts Hunters' House Plans". NPR. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
- John Wilkens (12 December 2012). "Hunter: No Medal of Honor for Peralta". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 17 December 2012.
- Duncan Hunter (16 December 2012). "Peralta Deserves Medal of Honor for Heroism". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 17 December 2012.
- 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.
- Dan Lamothe (4 March 2013). "New Medal of Honor push started for Peralta". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
- 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.
- Kovach, Gretel C. (8 June 2015). "Peraltas: Navy Cross medal 'bittersweet'". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
- "House Concurrent Resolution 19 HD1" (PDF). 25th Legislature. Hawaii House of Representatives. 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-05.
- "Navy Cross Citation" (PDF). The Secretary of the Navy. Retrieved 2009-01-31.
- "San Diego Police Honors Fallen Marine" (PDF). Flight Jacket (Marine Corps Air Station Miramar) 8 (17). April 28, 2006. Retrieved 2008-09-18.
- 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.
- "Act of Honor". THC Classroom. The History Channel. Retrieved 2008-09-18.
- "Act of Honor" (in Spanish). The History Channel.
- Perry, Tony (22 February 2014). "Doubt cast over circumstances of San Diego Marine's 2004 death". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
- Tony Perry (12 July 2010). "Marine hero's brother makes good on his promise". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
- Gary Robbins (8 December 2011). "Naming of warships causing dissent in Congress". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 22 December 2011.
- "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.
- 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.
- Act of Honor documentary on YouTube by The History Channel
- Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta, Fallen Heroes Memorial.
- Personal Photos of Sgt. Peralta
- Rafael Peralta at Find a Grave