Memorial Day 2014: A tribute to Sgt. Peralta

There may be no better setting in which to say thank you to the men and women who gave their lives in the service of their country than the Mt. Soledad Memorial. Monday, Mt. Soledad was the stage for a tribute to one of San Diego’s own who made the ultimate sacrifice, but who many think has not received the recognition he deserves.

A fly-over, befitting a war hero. Nothing spared Monday, as an overflow crowd of more than 1,000 jammed the steps of the iconic Mt. Soledad Memorial for an event organizers called the most powerful they’ve seen. Survivors spoke of heroism that spared their lives.

“I don’t go a day without thinking about Sgt. Peralta, neither does my 10-year-old son, 8-year-old daughter and 5-year-old daughter,” said Cpl. Robert Reynolds of the U.S. Marines.

November 15,2004: the war in Iraq, at fever pitch – Operation Phantom Fury underway. Infantry Platoon Guide Sgt. Rafael Peralta, on the most dangerous of missions, led his platoon on a building clearing mission. At the fourth house, Peralta is hit by AK-47 enemy rounds. His men return fire, then a grenade… and Peralta covers it.

“I was less than 2 meters away from the grenade,” said Staff Sgt. Adam Morrison. “I watched them pull the grenade. I have shrapnel from that grenade in my leg.”

“What can I say, that his actions haven’t already said for themselves?” Asked Nick Jones of the U.S. Marines. “Through his actions, Peralta reminds us that Memorial Day is not a day for barbecues, it’s not a day to reel in summer or get a good deal on a car. Today is a day of ceremonies and speeches. Today, throughout America, we will honor the dead of our wars.”

Moving testimonials memorialize the man, but somehow, they have not been enough to persuade the nation’s military commanders to bestow their highest honor upon the Marine. A fellow U.S. Marine turned U.S. Congressman vowed to keep fighting the good fight.

“All of us  here today know exactly what Rafael Peralta did. We know, and we know in our hearts. This community has fought for him more than any other, and we still believe in him and we pay special tribute to him today,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter of the 50th District.

As his name joined the more than 3,000 enshrined on the magnificent memorial at Mt. Soledad, Sgt. Peralta’s family say this honor bestowed by the folks back home is more than enough.

“Him not receiving the Medal of Honor doesn’t really take much away from anything,” said brother Ricardo Peralta. “The family couldn’t be any more proud.”

His name, now part of basic training at Marine Recruit Depot San Diego, as commanders read it to every new recruit and make certain young Marines know Sergeant Rafael Peralta – who went before them – was Semper Fidelis when it counted in close combat quarters, giving his life to save others.

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