"It's stuff you hear about in boot camp, about World War II and Tarawa Marines who won the Medal of Honor," Lance Corporal Rob Rogers of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment told the Army Times. Corporal Rogers was describing the actions of his fellow Marine, Sgt. Rafael Peralta, a Mexican immigrant who enlisted in the Marine Corps the day he received his green card.
Most readers of this column probably haven't heard about Rafael Peralta. With the exception of the Los Angeles Times, most of our mainstream media haven't bothered to write about him. The next time you log onto the Internet, do a Google search on Rafael Peralta. As of this writing, the Internet's most used search engine will provide you with only 26 citations from news sources that have bothered to write about this heroic young man. Then, just for giggles, do a Google search on Pablo Paredes. Hundreds of media outlets have written about him. The wire services have blasted his story to thousands of newspapers. Television and radio debate programs gladly provide the public with talking heads that can speak eloquently on the actions of Pablo Paredes.
You see, Pablo Paredes, a Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class, did something the liberal elites consider "heroic" and the media consider "newsworthy" - he defied an order. Last week, Paredes refused to board his ship bound for Iraq along with 5,000 other sailors and Marines. He showed up on the pier wearing a black tee shirt that read, ``Like a Cabinet member, I resign.''
We know this because Petty Officer Pablo Paredes had the courtesy and forethought to notify the local media that he would commit an act of cowardice the following day. Perhaps he hoped to follow the lead of another famous war protestor who went on to become a U.S. Senator and his party's presidential nominee by throwing away his military medals. Petty Officer Paredes stopped short of trashing his military I.D. in front of the cameras because he said he didn't want to be charged with the destruction of government property. The media, we are promised, will continue to follow this story intently.
It is a shame that the media focus on such acts when they could tell stories about real heroes like Rafael Peralta who "saved the life of my son and every Marine in that room," according to Garry Morrison the father of a Marine in Peralta's unit - Lance Cpl. Adam Morrison.
On the morning of November 15, 2004, the men of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines awoke before sunrise and continued what they had been doing for seven days previously - cleansing the city of Fallujah of terrorists house by house.
At the fourth house they encountered that morning the Marines kicked in the door and "cleared" the front rooms, but then noticed a locked door off to the side that required inspection. Sgt. Rafael Peralta threw open the closed door, but behind it were three terrorists with AK-47s. Peralta was hit in the head and chest with multiple shots at close range.
Peralta's fellow Marines had to step over his body to continue the shootout with the terrorists. As the firefight raged on, a "yellow, foreign-made, oval-shaped grenade," as Lance Corporal Travis Kaemmerer described it, rolled into the room where they were all standing and came to a stop near Peralta's body.
But Sgt. Rafael Peralta wasn't dead - yet. This young immigrant of 25 years, who enlisted in the Marines when he received his green card, who volunteered for the front line duty in Fallujah, had one last act of heroism in him.
Sgt. Rafael Peralta was the polar opposite of Pablo Paredes, the Petty Officer who turned his back on his shipmates and mocked his commander in chief. Peralta was proud to serve his adopted country. In his parent's home, on his bedroom walls hung only three items - a copy of the United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights and his boot camp graduation certificate. Before he set out for Fallujah, he wrote to his 14-year old brother, "be proud of me, bro...and be proud of being an American."
Not only can Rafael's family be proud of him, but his fellow Marines are alive because of him. As Sgt. Rafael Peralta lay near death on the floor of a Fallujah terrorist hideout, he spotted the yellow grenade that had rolled next to his near-lifeless body. Once detonated, it would take out the rest of Peralta's squad. To save his fellow Marines, Peralta reached out, grabbed the grenade, and tucked it under his abdomen where it exploded.
"Most of the Marines in the house were in the immediate area of the grenade," Cpl. Kaemmerer said. "We will never forget the second chance at life that Sgt. Peralta gave us."
Unfortunately, unlike Pablo Paredes, Sgt. Rafael Peralta will get little media coverage. He is unlikely to have books written about him or movies made about his extraordinarily selfless sacrifice. But he is likely to receive the Medal of Honor. And that Medal of Honor is likely to be displayed next to the only items that hung on his bedroom wall - the Constitution, Bill of Rights and his Boot Camp graduation certificate.
Yes, Virginia, there are still heroes in America, and Sgt. Rafael Peralta was one of them. It's just too bad the media can't recognize them.