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January 12, 2005

Sgt. Peralta: A Marine's Marine

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Sgt. Rafael Peralta, 25, died in the assault in Fallujah on November 15th. Marine officials notified his family the following Monday. The next day, Peralta's brother and sister received letters from their brother:

"I was just doing my homework and there was a knock on the door," said Ricardo Peralta, 14. "The moment I saw them, I knew."

In his letter to Ricardo, Rafael said he was doing something he had always wanted to do. He asked Ricardo to be proud of him because the Marines were making history in Iraq.

"(He was) a brave man, fighting for everyone's freedom and a loving brother; I'll never forget him, a hero," Ricardo Peralta said.

In his letter to his sister, Karen, Rafael promised to get her a cell phone for doing well in school. He said he was coming back.

"I wanted him to come back," Karen Peralta said. "How come some people come back and my brother didn't?"

Why didn't Sgt. Peralta come back? This is his story:

Sgt. Peralta, 25, was a Mexican-American. He joined the Marines the day after he got his green card and earned his citizenship while in uniform. He was fiercely loyal to the ethos of the Corps. While in Kuwait, waiting to go into Iraq, he had his camouflage uniform sent out to be pressed. He constantly looked for opportunities to help his Marine brothers, which is why he ended up where he was on Nov. 15. A week into the battle for Fallujah, the Marines were still doing the deadly work of clearing the city, house by house. As a platoon scout, Peralta didn't have to go out with the assault team that day. He volunteered to go.
...the Marines entered a house and kicked in the doors of two rooms that proved empty. But there was another closed door to an adjoining room. It was unlocked, and Peralta, in the lead, opened it. He was immediately hit with AK-47 fire in his face and upper torso by three insurgents. He fell out of the way into one of the cleared rooms to give his fellow Marines a clear shot at the enemy. During the firefight, a yellow fragmentation grenade flew out of the room, landing near Peralta and several fellow Marines. The uninjured Marines tried to scatter out of the way, two of them trying to escape the room, but were blocked by a locked door. At that point, barely alive, Peralta grabbed the grenade and cradled it to his body.

His body took most of the blast. One Marine was seriously injured, but the rest sustained only minor shrapnel wounds. Cpl. Brannon Dyer told a reporter from the Army Times, "He saved half my fire team."

Most Americans have never heard of Rafael Peralta, and they never will.

In past wars, he would have been a hero. His name would have been a household word, his deeds an inspiration to small boys, their eyes growing wide with amazement at his sacrifice. The chests of old men would have puffed out in pride. Crusty veterans would have stood a bit taller, remembering their own service. Women would have grown misty-eyed, and young girls would have laid flowers on his grave, wiping away a tear as they dreamed of handsome heroes.

But instead, our media celebrate the likes of Spc. Wilson, who recently chose to challenge an unprepared Sec. Rumsfeld in front of rolling cameras with 'facts' that later proved to be untrue. Spc. Wilson's "bravery" is touted endlessly, while the heroic deeds of those like Sgt. Peralta are ignored by the 'professional journalists' at the Washington Post and New York Times. To them, he was just another combat casualty: a faceless number laid at the feet of the Bush administration. Apparently his extraordinary heroism (like the names of our medal awardees, or the good news in Iraq and Afghanisan) is just another of the many, many war stories that the press, in its infinite wisdom, has decided the public does not "need to know".

Since the lamestream media will not tell you about Rafael Peralta, what did his fellow Marines think of the man?

"It's stuff you hear about in boot camp, about World War II and Tarawa Marines who won the Medal of Honor," said Lance Cpl. Rob Rogers, 22, of Tallahassee, Fla., one of Peralta's platoon mates in 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.

The Marines said such a sacrifice would be perfectly in character for Peralta, a Mexico native who lived in San Diego and gained U.S. citizenship after joining the Marines.

"He'd stand up for his Marines to an insane point," Rogers said.

Rogers and others remembered Peralta as a squared-away Marine, so meticulous about uniform standards that he sent his camouflage uniform to be pressed while training in Kuwait before entering Iraq.

But mostly they remembered acts of selflessness: offering career advice, giving a buddy a ride home from the bar, teaching salsa dance steps in the barracks.

While Alpha Company was still gathering information, and a formal finding on Peralta's death is likely months away, not a single Marine in Alpha Company doubted the account of Peralta's act of sacrifice.

"I believe it," said Alpha's commander, Capt. Lee Johnson. "He was that kind of Marine."

A Marine's Marine. There is no higher compliment.

[Marine combat correspondent Lance Corporal T.J.] Kaemmerer recounts how later on the night of Nov. 15, a friend approached him and said: "You're still here; don't forget that. Tell your kids, your grandkids, what Sgt. Peralta did for you and the other Marines today." Don't forget. Good advice for all of us.

Don't let this story end here. We have so many good men, and every time we lose one, we are somehow diminished. Unless we remember them.

Unless we remain faithful to their memory. Someone should.

Posted by Cassandra at January 12, 2005 06:24 AM

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Outstanding. I have a quote about honor from Bill Bennett that was delivered to cadets at the Naval Acadamy.
I was going to post it and do an article around it but I think it belongs here:

"Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart of age. It does so because honor is, finally, about defending those noble and worthy things that deserve defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or as always, even death itself. The question remains: What is worth defending? What is worth dying for? What is worth living for?"
William J. Bennett

Posted by: Joatmoaf at January 12, 2005 09:23 AM

I hope you will write about it joat.

The Bennett quote reminds me of one from one of my favorite fictional characters, Rodrigo Belmonte. I can't recall the exact quote, but it was something to the effect of, "For what may a man honorably strive?"

The answer was inscribed (at the end of the novel) on his tombstone by his dearest friend, the man who killed him:

"Know, all who see these lines,
that this man,
By his appetite for honor,
By his steadfastness,
By his love for his country,
By his courage,
Was one of the miracles of the god."

Posted by: Cassandra at January 12, 2005 09:43 AM

...and as Dr. King said:
A man who has found nothing he's willing to die for is not fit to live.

Semper Fi Sgt. Peralta and God's speed.

Posted by: Masked MenaceĀ© at January 12, 2005 09:44 AM

I had no idea that there was this website for Peralta. He's my bestfriend. I met him the last year of my enlistment and we became such great friends. He is a GREAT man. I will and always miss him.

Posted by: eddie at May 29, 2006 09:28 AM

This is Eddie again. I just wanted to add we were both in the same unit. I am Cpl Rodriguez.

Posted by: eddie at May 29, 2006 09:29 AM

You'll see him again Cpl. On the Other Side. He'll be as you remember him today; Forever Young!

This is the day for Remembrance although we all carry our Heroes in our hearts all the time. As it should be.

Thank you for your service. God Speed!

Posted by: JarheadDad at May 29, 2006 09:48 AM

Cpl. Rodriguez:

Thanks so much for visiting. I am honored :)

And thank you, so very much, for your service.

Posted by: Cassandra at May 29, 2006 10:05 AM

Thanks for posting this. I'm glad the story reached as many people as it did.

Posted by: T.J. at July 17, 2006 11:59 AM

Sergeant Peralta deserves to have his story spread far and wide. It is an inspiring one, and one that makes all of us proud to be American.

I hope we as a nation can live up to his sacrifice.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 17, 2006 12:09 PM

Thank you, too, TJ. We wouldn't know about it without you.

God bless you.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 17, 2006 12:11 PM

I was his platoon corpsman and his friend.
It is good to see some type of recognition for a hero. Obviously, I would like to see some type of award for him. Has anyone heard anything else about what is being done on the Marine Corps side?

Posted by: Doc Barksdale at April 12, 2007 08:55 PM

I don't know Doc.

I have written an awful lot of these. I don't know why Rafeal's story stays with me. It just does.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 12, 2007 09:14 PM

...I also don't know why I misspelled his name. Probably one too many glasses of wine with dinner. Sorry :)

Posted by: Cassandra at April 13, 2007 07:27 AM

Sgt. Peralta exemplifies the true spirit of the American Fighting Man regardless of his nationalitly. In the END, it was his true love of this country that so many before him, during him and after him, will "carry on" the true meaning of FREEDOM of the American WAY. His calling was a sacrifice that most others are afraid of, today's media, today's lost celeberties and those politicians who want to surender to those who want nothing but to destroy us as a nation serving our lord savior. Fear not, there are many more Sgt. Peralta's in uniform and not yet born. Those of US who seek the Almighty Spirit and a god loving nation shall endure and forever live. God bless those who gave the ULTIMATE sacrifice for those of us who live on.

Posted by: Rod Rodriguez, MSGT, USMC Retired at May 20, 2007 08:25 PM

peralta family you have my deepest sympathy. i just finished watching the t.v. documentary on Rafael peralta and i am inspired. (history channel on demand "Act of Honor". I hwas hoping Ricardo did not join i don't think his brother would want him in harms way. rafael peralta is a National hero.

Posted by: newjerseyguy at September 20, 2007 04:39 AM

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