Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Heroes Amongst Us: No Greater Love...

Greater love hath no man than this,
that a man lay down his life for his friends.
--John 15:13

From USA Today:

Hero shielded grenade to save others
Marine ‘saved half my fire team' in Fallujah

By Gordon Trowbridge Army Times

FALLUJAH, Iraq — Sgt. Rafael Peralta had built a reputation for putting his Marines' interests ahead of his own.

He showed that again, and for the last time, when he made the ultimate sacrifice Nov. 15 in a firefight during the battle of Fallujah. Peralta shielded his fellow Marines from a grenade blast, according to official statements and accounts given to Army Times by troops who took part in the battle.

“It's stuff you hear about in boot camp, about World War II and Tarawa Marines who won the Medal of Honor,” said Lance Cpl. Rob Rogers, 22, of Tallahassee, Fla., a platoon mate of Peralta's in 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.

Peralta, 25, as platoon scout for 1st Platoon, wasn't assigned to the assault team that entered the insurgent safe house in northern Fallujah where he died, Marines said. Though his assignment would have allowed him to avoid such dangerous duty, he regularly asked squad leaders whether he could join their assault teams, they said.

One of the first Marines to enter the house, Peralta was wounded in the face by rifle fire, said Lance Cpl. Adam Morrison, 20, of Tacoma, Wash., who was in the house when Peralta was wounded.

Peralta fell to the floor, Morrison said. Moments later, an insurgent rolled a fragmentation grenade into the area where Peralta and the other Marines were seeking cover.

As Morrison and another Marine scrambled to escape, pounding against a locked door, Peralta, still conscious, grabbed the grenade and cradled it into his body, Morrison said. One Marine was badly wounded by shrapnel from the blast. But the Marines said more lives would have been lost if not for Peralta's selfless act.

“He saved half my fire team,” said Cpl. Brannon Dyer, 27, of Blairsville, Ga.

Alpha Company Marines said such a final act would be in character for Peralta, a native of Mexico who lived in San Diego and became a U.S. citizen after joining the Marines.
“He'd stand up for his Marines to an insane point,” Rogers said.

Rogers and others remembered Peralta as a squared-away Marine, so meticulous about uniform standards that he sent his fatigues to be pressed while Alpha Company was training in Kuwait before entering Iraq.

Mostly, they remembered acts of selflessness: offering career advice, giving a buddy a ride home from a bar, teaching salsa dance steps in the barracks.

Sgt. Eric Esparza, 23, of Blue Island, Ill., said that when he first arrived at Alpha Company, Peralta took him in, introduced himself and fellow Marines and made him immediately feel a part of the company. The two became roommates and fast friends.

“I didn't know anyone, and he made sure that I felt right at home,” Esparza said.

You're home now Marine. God keep you and bless you; our lives are diminished without one such as you in them, but you're home now; be at peace.


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