By DAVID SHARP
Oct. 31, 2015
BATH, Maine (AP) — First in English, then in Spanish, the mother of a fallen Marine who shielded his comrades from an insurgent's grenade christened a new Navy destroyer in his honor.
Rosa Peralta smashes a bottle of champagne to christen the USS Raphael Peralta, the 35th Arleigh Burke Class Missile Destroyer to be built by Bath Iron Works, Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015, in Bath, Maine. The warship is named for Rosa Peralta's son, Sgt. Raphael Peralta, who was killed in action on Nov. 15, 2004, while clearing houses in the city of Fallujah, Iraq, during Operation Al Fajr. Frederick J. Harris, president of General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, at left, and Rosa Peralta's daughter, Icela Peralta Donald, center, and son, Ricardo Peralta, join her on the platform.(AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)Rosa Peralta asked God to bless the ship named for her son, Sgt. Rafael Peralta, and to keep the crew safe before smashing a bottle of Champagne on the ship's bow Saturday.
The ceremony at Bath Iron Works to christen the future USS Rafael Peralta paid homage to the slain Marine, who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service of a country to which he emigrated as a boy. He is believed to be the first serviceman born in Mexico to have a naval warship named in his honor.
Peralta was denied the Medal of Honor but awarded the Navy Cross, the nation's second highest award for valor, after former Defense Secretary Robert Gates ruled the Marine lost consciousness after he was mortally wounded and his body smothered a grenade in Iraq in 2004, saving other lives. But the prevailing belief among the military is that Peralta pulled the grenade against his body to protect his fellow Marines during close combat with insurgents in Fallujah on Nov. 15 that year.
"He believed more about the goodness of America than most Americans, to the point of fighting and sacrificing everything for what America stands for," Gen. Robert Neller, the Marine Corps commandant, said as he quoted from Peralta's former commanding officer from the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, the Hawaii-based "Lava Dogs."
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