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January 12, 2014

Sgt. Peralta's Rifle

The blog princess ran across this poem by Marine Corporal William Berry III in an article about Rafael Peralta's rifle:


The story behind the poem is an interesting one:

When William Berry wrote to the National Museum of the Marine Corps asking its curators to find Sgt. Rafael Peralta’s M16 service rifle, he wasn’t terribly confident they would read it or respond.

After all, his letter was postmarked from the Virginia Beach County Jail, where he was serving a year sentence after a drunken driving bust.

But Berry wasn’t just a casual observer; he was intimately familiar with that rifle, down to its shrapnel scars and battle dust, and his instructions helped museum staff to locate the weapon at the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit armory in Okinawa, Japan, where it had been in storage for years. Where, in fact, Berry had left it in 2005 when he gave it a final cleaning after its return from Iraq.

An armorer with Battalion Landing Team 1/3, Berry’s job in Iraq in 2004 was in part to collect the remnants of rifles after their owners became war casualties. Frequently, the weapons were mangled and twisted; sometimes they were covered in blood.

Berry recalled several instances when casualties came pouring in all at once and his grim job became a blur.

“Right before we went into Fallujah, it was late October, we had an [improvised explosive device] go off on a seven-ton [truck], and it killed eight Marines,” said Berry, who was a 22-year-old lance corporal at the time. “Once we recovered all the weapons, which were blown up to bits, we would put them in a body bag. ”

Exactly 8 years ago today, we wrote about Sgt. Peralta's heroic deeds. At that time, we didn't think his story would be remembered:

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.

We did not know then that one day he would be nominated to receive the Medal of Honor. We did not know that this honor would be refused him - wrongly, we've always thought.

And we did not know that Sgt. Peralta's battle-scarred rifle would one day become instrumental in the fight to honor this hero as he should have been honored long ago.

Posted by Cassandra at January 12, 2014 03:11 PM

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Wow! I think less of Gates now.
Marines are special, and this 'kid' Peralta was as special as they get.

Posted by: CAPT Mike at January 12, 2014 06:26 PM

I have more sympathy for his position than one might think but still think he was wrong on this one.

Also the Dover decision. I wonder sometimes whether staying in that kind of job too long distorts the thinking?

Posted by: Cassandra at January 12, 2014 07:56 PM

I too followed the strange case of Sgt Peralta's MoH nomination for some time, the latest as an update to an article on the Battle for COP Keating. You can backtrack to previous, more detailed articles.


What is particularly galling is that he was awarded the Navy Cross for an action that the MoH committee declared to be impossible.

Posted by: Darkwater at January 27, 2014 01:37 AM