Friday, December 17, 2004

In Praise of Rafael Peralta

Via Powerline, I learn about the death in combat of Marine Sargeant Rafael Peralta in the Battle for Fallujah last month. The Seattle Times was quick to carry the report. The critical sequence of events:

Peralta, 25, as platoon scout, wasn't even assigned to the assault team that entered the insurgent safe house in northern Fallujah, Marines said. Despite an assignment that would have allowed him to avoid such dangerous duty, he regularly asked squad leaders if 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 from a room near the entry door, said Lance Cpl. Adam Morrison, 20, of Tacoma, who was in the house when Peralta was first wounded.

Moments later, an insurgent rolled a fragmentation grenade into the area where a wounded Peralta and the other Marines were seeking cover.

As Morrison and another Marine scrambled to escape the blast, pounding against a locked door, Peralta grabbed the grenade and cradled it into his body, Morrison said. While one Marine was badly wounded by shrapnel from the blast, the Marines said they believe more lives would have been lost if not for Peralta's selfless act.
Blogging has been light these past couple of days because I've been turning the pages on Flags of Our Fathers. Written by James Bradley, it chronicles the stories of the 6 men in the famous flag-raising picture on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima, one of whom was John Bradley, the author's father. If you are like me, then you don't know enough American history to know the brutality of the War in the Pacific and the many ways that this famous image is widely misunderstood. Read the book.

John Bradley shunned the limelight that followed his inclusion in that photo, saying little to his son about the battle in the nearly fifty years he lived thereafter. He refused to allow people to glorify him as a hero, saying "The real heroes of Iwo Jima were the guys who didn't come back." He was talking about the 26,000 Marines who perished in the battle for that island. He could just as well have been talking about Rafael Peralta nearly sixty years later.

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