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Sgt. Rafael Peralta’s legacy lives on to provide security, stability in Indo-Pacific

14 March 2020

From MC2 Jason Isaacs, USS Rafael Peralta

The guided-missile destroyer is in the midst of its first deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

PACIFIC OCEAN - The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115) is conducting its first deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

Rafael Peralta (DDG 115) was commissioned July 29, 2017, in honor of Sgt. Rafael Peralta who was posthumously awarded a Navy Cross after serving with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Born in Mexico City, Peralta immigrated to California before earning his citizenship early in his Marine Corps career in the early 2000s. In 2004, Peralta’s unit, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, deployed to Fallujah, Iraq, to take part in Operation Phantom Fury, as the Battalion Landing Team for the 31st MEU.

“In the truest sense, Sgt. Peralta was once the ‘Man in the Arena,’ and he performed his duties valiantly, expressing the ultimate sacrifice for the love of his adopted country,” said Cmdr. Chad Trubilla, commanding officer of USS Rafael Peralta. “Our ’Lava Dog‘ Sailors are primed and ready to represent our namesake with the utmost professionalism and commitment to the Navy and Marine Corps Team. I’m so very proud to command a Navy warship named after such a courageous Marine.”

On Nov. 15, 2004, while clearing his fourth house of the day, Sgt. Peralta opened a door and was immediately shot with small-arms fire. While being mortally wounded, Peralta maintained the presence of mind to move to the side to allow his fellow Marines to return fire at the enemy.

The insurgents tossed a hand grenade toward the door. Sgt. Peralta pulled the grenade underneath his body, absorbing the brunt of the blast and saving his fellow Marines in the process. For his actions, Sgt. Peralta would posthumously receive the Navy Cross, and the 31st MEU would name its command post on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, in his honor.

Today, it’s not uncommon to see 31st MEU Marines place their hand on Sgt. Peralta’s plaque on the pillar outside of the command post before they begin their work day. For a tight-knit unit that deploys aboard Naval ships twice a year, and serves as the Indo-Pacific region’s crisis response force, Sgt. Peralta’s heroism and self-sacrifice set the example that all 31st MEU Marines strive for.

Sgt. Peralta’s legacy lives on with the ship’s crew - his courage inspires everyone from the commanding officer to the newest Sailor on board.

Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Kovadis Maxie II, from Helena, Arkansas, stepped on board the Rafael Peralta in June 2016. At the time, the ship had not yet been commissioned and was being fitted-out in Bath, Maine. He has served on the ship for four years and is an original plank owner. Maxie was present during the commissioning, where he watched the Marines that served with Sgt. Peralta sign their names inside the gun mount.

“I didn’t know the story of Rafael Peralta, but as soon as I started hearing more of his story I was moved with motivation,” said Maxie. “His fellow Marines were his brothers and he protected his family. I feel the same on this ship underway. All the sailors on board are like my extended family. I’ll do what it takes to get them back to their families and to get back to mine.”

Sgt. Peralta’s courage and sacrifice serves as constant motivation for the Sailors serving on his namesake destroyer during the ship’s first deployment.

“Before I joined the ‘Lava Dog’ family, I served multiple tours in the Middle East,” said Master-at-Arms 1st Class Jonathan Cox, from Tyler, Texas, who joined the crew in March 2019. “Serving on board the Rafael Peralta in the 7th Fleet humbles me to know that we are here carrying a legacy. It brings me great honor to carry the Rafael Peralta name around the world, and I hope to serve my country with the same courage as Sgt. Peralta.”

The U.S. Navy has operated in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations for more than 70 years, in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific, promoting peace and prosperity for all nations.

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