What a coincidence…we enter the U.S. Senate’s debate on immigration reform in the same week the History Channel’s tribute to a Mexican-born, immigrant United States Marine hero is scheduled for America to see, Saturday, May 19. This documentary will appear just days before we celebrate the hundreds of thousands of American soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen who have died in all wars on Memorial Day, 2007, even as Americans are dying in faraway Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rafael Peralta could have been my brother. Sergeant Rafael Peralta, United States Marine Corps was born in Tijuana, Mexico, 28 years ago, as I was born in Mexico City some years before. His family brought Peralta to San Diego, California, United States of America as a young boy, as I was to the same city as a three- year-old.
We both attended San Diego City schools, Peralta graduated from Morse High School, still a Mexican citizen and worked to get his Permanent Resident Card, the famous "Green Card" so he could join the Marines. I graduated from Hoover High School and went on to college, then joined the Marines, albeit, years before Peralta was born. On the day he received his "Green Card" he joined the Marines. Our Marine career paths reached the proverbial fork in the road; he proceeded on foot in the infantry while I became a training/operations/intelligence Marine. Peralta became a ground-pounding hero and I became someone to write about heroes.
Sergeant Peralta loved the Marines. So do I. In an effort to (1) exalt a hero and to direct attention to him and his fellow Marines at what has become a highlight of U.S. Marine history, I write this article. And, (2) to bring attention to men like Perlata who were born in other countries, who became great Americans we must remember on Memorial Day, I write this tribute. Marine Sergeant Nicholas Jones says of his fellow Marine Sergeant, Peralta, "Somebody gives you another chance to live, you never forget that."
On November 15, 2004, Sergeant Peralta and five other Marines were kicking in doors and clearing houses door-to-door in Fallujah, Iraq. The year before, the Marines were prohibited from conquering Fallujah and its 300,000 inhabitants for politically correct reasons.
Arab irregulars opened fire on Peralta as he burst into a house hitting him in the face and chest. Writhing on the floor, Peralta watched in horror as one of the Arabs pulled a grenade pin and rolled it into the room.
It stopped rolling inches from the wounded boy from Tijuana, Mexico. Petrified, the five other Marines in his team watched Peralta grab the grenade and roll his body over it. The five Marines turned away as the grenade exploded. All five survived their wounds; the blast and shrapnel his body absorbed killed Peralta.
Sergeant Peralta has been nominated for the Medal of Honor, the country’s highest military honor. Marine and Navy officers have combed Iraq and the Marines for eyewitness statements as required for the Medal to be approved.
Two Medals of Honor for the Iraq War have been awarded posthumously (after death) to Army Sergeant Paul R. Smith and Marine Corporal Jason I. Dunham.
There will be more, of course, but they won’t get the publicity in the American press they deserve. Why, because people like hysterics Cindi Sheehan, mother of a Army son killed in Iraq, propaganda-maker Michael Moore and Green Card-carrying Fernando Suarez de Solar, step-father to another Mexican immigrant Marine killed in Iraq, get press orgasms. Why, because they are against the war and virulently against the best friend of American Hispanics ever, President George W. Bush.
Real Americans know whom to lift to hero status.
Real Americans ignore Sheehan, Moore and Fernando Suarez de Solar. His wife, the mother of dead Mexican-born Marine Jesus Suarez de Solar dumped her husband because he insults the memory of her son.
President George W. Bush says of Sergeant Rafael Peralta, American, this: …He "understood that America faces dangerous enemies, and he knew the sacrifices required to defeat them." No one can say that about Sheehan, Moore or Fernando Suarez de Solar.
Peralta knew what he was doing when he pulled the grenade under his body. He knew what he was doing when he joined the Marines. He knew why he was in Iraq. Sergeant Nicholas Jones, one of the five Marines whose lives Peralta saved with his ultimate sacrifice at Fallujah, says: "As soon as we were done fighting that day, I sat down with all my guys and we had a moment of silence. I told them, ‘Don’t ever forget what just happened. Don’t forget what he did for us. It’s something that will be in the history books."
Home of the Brave by Wynton Hall and former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger (Forge Books, 2006) relates the Peralta story. The History Channel honors Peralta further for hundreds of thousands to watch the story of a kid from Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego who died an American hero on November 15, 2004 in a desert place called Fallujah, the current "Shores of Tripoli."
Vaya con Dios, Sergeant Rafael Peralta, and Semper Fi, you are my hero.