Kaneohe Marine named for top medal
Peralta, who saved four in his platoon, is nominated for the Medal of Honor
Sgt. Rafael Peralta, who saved fellow Kaneohe Marines by covering a grenade during the battle for Fallujah, Iraq, has been nominated for the nation's highest award, the Medal of Honor.
A spokesman for Marine Base Hawaii confirmed yesterday that the name of Peralta, 25, had been submitted for the Medal of Honor for saving the lives of four members of his platoon.
Peralta was with Kaneohe's 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, when he was killed on Nov. 15, 2004, during the second battle of Fallujah. He was one of 42 Marines and two Navy corpsmen assigned to the 1st Battalion who were killed in the unit's first deployment to Iraq. The battalion is scheduled to return there next spring.
Peralta's platoon had been involved in a house-to-house battle with insurgents when he was killed.
Yesterday, on the eve of Veterans Day, President Bush announced that Cpl. Jason Dunham would become the first Marine to receive the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War for sacrificing his life in Iraq for his fellow Marines. Dunham, assigned to Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines Regiment, died more than two years ago after covering a grenade with his helmet.
The other service member to receive the Medal of Honor for service in the Iraq war is Sgt. 1st Class Paul Ray Smith, who earned the Medal of Honor on April 4, 2005. Smith was credited with saving the lives of at least 100 soldiers while killing 20 to 50 enemy soldiers before he was killed while serving with the 2nd Platoon, B Company, 11th Engineer Battalion, at a temporary detainee facility at Saddam International Airport during the invasion of Iraq.
Five Marines, including Gunnery Sgt. Allan J. Kellogg from the islands, were recipients of the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War.
Peralta had wanted to join the Marine Corps after graduating from high school in San Diego in 1997, but since he was a Mexican citizen, he had to wait until 2000 when he had received legal residency and become a U.S. citizen.
He was assigned to Kaneohe's 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment in November 2003, which arrived in Iraq in October 2004. Peralta was killed on the eighth day of Operation Al Fajr in Fallujah. The Kaneohe Marines' mission was to clear the city of insurgents building by building.
According to reports, Peralta was shot several times while clearing a building in Fallujah. As fellow Marines battled the insurgents who shot Peralta, a live grenade bounced into the room near the severely wounded Marine.
Lance Cpl. T.J. Kaemmerer, a combat correspondent who was attached to Alpha Company, said he saw Peralta reach out and pull the grenade into his body, protecting the lives of several fellow Kaneohe Marines.
Kaemmerer reported that Peralta was a platoon scout in the Kaneohe unit, which meant he could have stayed back in safety while the squads of 1st Platoon went into the danger-filled streets. But Peralta was constantly asking to help.
In a December 2004 news report, Kaemmerer gave the following account of his fellow Marine's heroism:
"Peralta was hit several times in his upper torso and face at point-blank range by the fully automatic 7.62 mm weapons employed by three terrorists. Mortally wounded, he jumped into the already cleared adjoining room, giving the rest of us a clear line of fire through the doorway to the rear of the house.
"We opened fire. ... One Marine was shot through the forearm and continued to fire at the enemy.
"I saw four Marines firing from the adjoining room when a yellow, foreign-made, oval-shaped grenade bounced into the room, rolling to a stop close to Peralta's nearly lifeless body.
"I watched in fear and horror as the other four Marines scrambled to the corners of the room and the majority of the blast was absorbed by Peralta's now lifeless body. His selflessness left four other Marines with only minor injuries from smaller fragments of the grenade."