Imagine you are on the front lines in Fallujah, Iraq. You don't have to be. Hell, if you wanted you could be somewhere other than outside this house you and a company of marines are about to enter. You enlisted in the United States Marine Corps back in 2000. Recently you re-enlisted. What you bring in as a marine doesn't make you rich, but you send it back home to your family and they're getting by, and the corps takes care of your own immediate needs. You're a platoon scout, which means you coulda stayed back. However, you're the kinda guy who offers to help out. You fill a hole where it's needed. You know why you're here. You wanna do your part. You're not just trying to get through the day; you wanna make each day count.

Besides, this has become kinda routine. You've been trained for this. You and your buddies make up what's called a stack. You and five other marines file into a house, standard procedure, check all the rooms one door at a time and make sure all is clear; that there's no insurgents hiding out to stir up trouble later. You've been doing this all over Fallujah. It's no big deal. Well.. it is a deal. I mean, they don't give you the gun you're carrying to do some gardening. There's a level of risk here, but you've been trained. Your buddies have been trained. You trust them, they trust you, and besides you got two stacks per house. That many eyes; how can anything possibly go wrong? So you and your buddies kick down the front door and go into this house. Your stack goes into one main room and the other stack goes into the other main room. There's no confrontation so your group shouts "clear!" Then you hear the other stack shout, "clear!" You don't let your guard down though cuz there's another door, and everybody gets in their places, scattered throughout the room so you all have a clear shot. You're closest to the door, so you check the handle, it opens with ease. You swing the door open with rifle in hand and then you hear popping sounds and you're going down to the floor. There were three insurgents on the other side. Your buddies are retaliating, but you're suddenly discovering gravity and the cold floor and you smell and taste blood. It's yours.

So you're on the floor. You haven't had enough time to take stock of what body parts are working and what's not. Maybe you're not even feeling pain. You think perhaps you're going into shock. You've heard sometimes that's what happens to people who get multiple gunshot wounds from AK-47s at point blank range. You're pretty sure though that you'll never be the same again. In fact there's a very good chance you're done for. Before you can really access the ramifications of your mortality though, you hear the sound of something metallic bouncing across the cold floor. It's yellow and round and it stops moving within arm's reach of you. Your eyesight is kinda blurry and it's getting hard to think, but you think maybe it's a grenade.

All your buddies are still in the room. You can't see if they've left, but you can hear the gunfire and you're assuming they're in the process of making short work outta the guys that just shot you. You don't want anything to happen to your friends. They've been through thick and thin with you. They trust you, you trust them and they're counting on you. You figure you're done for anyway, and if you grab the grenade maybe your body will take the brunt of the blast, thus sparing their lives. So you reach out with the arm that's still responding to your brain's commands, and you grab the grenade. You pull it in close to you, like you used to draw close your little sister to give her a hug. You embrace death, knowing in your last breath you're saving your friends.

Imagine all that. Now realize that however grievous or painful or remarkable or strange or horrifying or confusing or proud or sad or patriotic or angry or whatever you feel imagining all that? Multiply that by about twenty. That's how you should feel. My words just don't do this man's sacrifice justice. I never knew the man. I wish I could have shaken his hand.

Sgt. Rafael Peralta was twenty-five years old. Of mexican-american ancestry, Peralta called San Diego, California home. He was known among other marines for taking risks, and going above and beyond the call of duty for the sake of his junior marines. His unit was Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. He was the oldest son of his family, and since his father passed away a few years ago, he was also for all intents and purposes the head of the family. He loved the corps. He loved his family. He loved his country. He would fill a hole in the front lines because he knew it mattered. He would do what needed to be done. His life should be commemorated. His sacrifice should never be forgotten. His effort should not be seen in vain.

Earlier this year, Sgt. Peralta spent his life to spare others. His sacrifice is one of a precious and courageous few marines in the history of America who have literally used their own body to minimize the blast from a grenade. This is a very rare occurrence, that I for one wish was even more rare. Every time this has happened in the past, the man posthumously received a Congressional Medal of Honor. There is every reason to believe the same will happen here.

http://ktla.trb.com/news/ktla-me-marine6dec06-lat,0,555267.story?coll=ktla-news-1
http://www.theunionleader.com/articles_showa.html?article=48001
http://www.usmc.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/lookupstoryref/2004123102943
http://www.portlavacawave.com/articles/2004/12/03/news/news02.txt
http://sleazereport.com/wp/index.php?p=646

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