This is a photo of the body armour Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta was wearing when he jumped on a grenade in Fallujah.
On Nov. 15, 2004, Peralta, 25, was shot as he entered a room with two other Marines during house-to-house fighting. Insurgents threw a grenade into the room shortly after, and according to eyewitness accounts, Peralta reached out and cradled it under his body — absorbing the blast that would kill him and save two other Marines’ lives.
Peralta was killed at the height of coalition forces’ push to retake Fallujah from Iraq’s al Qaeda-linked insurgency. The campaign was eventually successful, but only after some of the most intense urban combat in the Marine Corp’s history.
Cpl. Travis J. Kaemmerer, who was embedded with Peralta’s squad, recounted Peralta and members of his squad kicking down a door, only to face an immediate barrage of gunfire. Peralta fell, mortally wounded. But he “noticed a grenade only a foot from his head, and without hesitation reached out, grabbed it and pressed it to his heart, subsequently saving the lives of the other Marines in his squad,” reads the account on the website of I Marine Expeditionary Force.
Peralta was awarded the nation’s second-highest award for his actions, the Navy Cross — but his family has spent years fighting for an upgrade to the Medal of Honour.
From Marine Times:
Controversy remains at the heart of Peralta’s story. The Corps nominated Peralta for the Medal of Honour, but then-Defence Secretary Robert Gates questioned whether the Marine acted consciously to cover the grenade, pointing to a head wound he sustained from a ricocheting bullet fragment. A report from Peralta’s autopsy also indicated that the grenade may have exploded six to 10 feet from Peralta’s left side, though follow-on reports challenged that account.
This image showing extensive damage to Peralta’s body armour isn’t the other piece of evidence that supports Peralta’s Medal of Honour bid. There’s also Peralta’s rifle, which is covered with shrapnel scars that could corroborate eyewitness accounts of the Marine sergent’s death. And there’s graphic video footage obtained by Congressman Duncan Hunter’s office from the day Peralta died containing audio of Marines on scene talking about the grenade landing on him, according to UT-San Diego.
“Sergeant Peralta is a hero, not just to the men who witnessed him do the unthinkable, but also to the Marine Corps and all others who value the courage and sacrifice of America’s military,” Hunter said in a statement to Fox News Latino last March.
From Headquarters Marine Corps:
Born April 7, 1979, in Mexico City, Peralta was the oldest of four siblings. The son of Rafael and Rosa Peralta, he immigrated to the United States and joined the Marine Corps in April 2000 after receiving his green card and later became an American citizen.
Cpl. Kaemmerer later recounted the advice a fellow Marine gave him after Peralta’s death: “You’re still here. Don’t forget that. Tell your kids, your grandkids, what Sgt. Peralta did for you and the other Marines today.”
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