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. The mother of Sgt. Rafael Peralta asked God to bless the ship named for her son and keep the crew safe before smashing a bottle of Champagne on the ship's bow Saturday. The ceremony 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. Peralta, who pulled a grenade against his body to protect his fellow Marines during close combat with insurgents in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004, is believed to be the first serviceman born in Mexico to have a naval warship named in his honor.
"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 said as he quoted from Peralta's former commanding officer. Peralta came to the US with his family, attended high school in San Diego, then enlisted on the day he received his green card. He hung only three things on his wall: the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and his Marine boot camp graduation certificate. Peralta's family said the naming of the 510-foot guided-missile destroyer in the fallen Marine's honor has eased some of the bitterness over Peralta being denied the Medal of Honor. As the ship's sponsor, Peralta's mother had the honor of christening the ship.