Rafael Peralta (April 7, 1979 - November 15,
Sergeant Rafael Peralta, 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.
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, graduated from Morse High School in 1997,
and joined the United States Marine Corps as soon as he had a green card in
2000. He later became an American citizen while serving in the Marine Corps.
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
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.
Sergeant 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.
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.
Sgt. Peralta is buried in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego,
In December 2004, U.S. Congressman Bob Filner of California introduced
legislation to award Sgt. Peralta the Medal of Honor. As of January 22, 2008,
a Medal of Honor award for Sgt. Peralta was awaiting presidential approval.
On September 17, 2008, Rafael Peralta's family was notified by LtGen. Richard
Natonski that he would not receive the Medal of Honor, but the Navy Cross
instead, the service's second highest award for valor. 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. The doubt arose due to some believe that Peralta
was clinically dead when the insurgents threw the grenade.
Since the announcement that Peralta would receive the Navy Cross instead of
the Medal of Honor, numerous groups and individuals have spoken out in
support of the Medal of Honor for Peralta. 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. Although calls to elevate the award have not been acted on to date,
lawmakers have not given up and continue their efforts. Of the seven
servicemembers nominations for the Medal of Honor that have reached the
Secretary of Defense, Peralta's is the only nomination that has not been
Navy Cross Citation:
The President of the United States takes
pride in presenting the NAVY CROSS posthumously to
SERGEANT RAFAEL PERALTA, USMC
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.
Cross, Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal
Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal(with 1 service star), Global War on
Terrorism Service Medal, Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon