POSTED: 11:54 a.m. HST, Sep 25, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 01:00 p.m. HST, Sep 25, 2013
A Kaneohe Marine who died while shielding fellow Marines from a grenade blast during the 2004 battle for Fallujah in Iraq was honored during a ship-naming ceremony at Naval Base San Diego.
The Navy is naming an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer after Sgt. Rafael Peralta, a member of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment based at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
Destroyers are traditionally named after Navy heros.
Peralta's mother Rose and younger brother, Lance Cpl. Ricardo Peralta, attended the ceremony last week in San Diego.
"It's really emotional for the family because his nomination for the Medal of Honor has now been turned down more than once," Peralta said in a Department of Defense article. "But we know that there's not a single decoration or medal that they can give him that will make us more proud. We're proud to the fullest."
The family is still seeking to have Peralta receive the Medal of Honor. The Navy recommended Peralta receive the Medal of Honor, but then Defense Secretary Robert Gates reviewed the case and honored Peralta with the Navy Cross instead of the military's highest medal. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declined to reverse Gates' decision last year.
Peralta was fatally shot during house-to-house fighting during the second battle of Fallujah.
Kaneohe Marines who entered the house with Peralta said his last act was to pull an enemy grenade to his body after he had been wounded. They said the act saved their lives.
"That kind of heroism, that kind of love for his fellow men did not fall on deaf ears," said Lt. Gen. John A. Toolan, commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force said at the ceremony. "And by naming this ship today, we remember that kind of heroism."
Ricardo Peralta, an infantryman like his brother, is assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment in California.
"At his wake, I held his hands and promised him that I would join the Marine Corps for him, and not just join the military, but go into the infantry," Peralta said.
"In boot camp, there are classes where his Navy Cross citation is read, so every Marine hears about him," Peralta said.