The destroyer named for Navy Cross recipient Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta will be commissioned next summer, a Navy official said.
Also considered for the Medal of Honor, Peralta was killed Nov. 15, 2004, during a building-clearing mission in Fallujah, Iraq. He fell to the floor after receiving a fatal head wound from a ricocheting bullet fragment. Insurgents tossed a grenade at Marines and that landed near Peralta's head.
"Without hesitation and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, Sergeant Peralta reached out and pulled the grenade to his body, absorbing the brunt of the blast and shielding fellow Marines only feet away," Peralta's Navy Cross citation says. "Sergeant Peralta succumbed to his wounds."
The San Diego Union Tribune first reported on Friday that the destroyer named in Peralta's honor would be commissioned next summer in San Diego.
An exact date for the commissioning has not been set, said Navy Lt. Eric Durie, a spokesman for Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. Peralta's mother, Rosa, is the ship's sponsor.
"Destroyers are named for individuals who have displayed great valor, and though Sergeant Rafael Peralta cannot be here to receive this medal today, the ship that bears his name will continue to honor his memory and his heroism for decades to come, through the Sailors who are now serving, and will continue to serve, aboard that great ship," Mabus said when Peralta's family received his Navy Cross on June 8, 2015.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus comforts the mother of Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta after presenting her with a Navy Cross, the Navy and Marine Corps' second highest medal for valor during a ceremony at Camp Pendleton, Calif., on June 8, 2015.
Photo Credit: MCC Sam Shavers/Navy
In his book "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War," former Defense Secretary Robert Gates revealed that he had recommended Peralta for the Medal of Honor but was forced to reconsider when the Defense Department inspector general's office alleged that Peralta could not have acted consciously after being hit in the head.
"Perhaps someday, should additional evidence and analysis come to light, the criteria for the award will be deemed to have been met, and Sergeant Peralta will receive the Medal of Honor," Gates wrote. "Regardless, there is no doubt he was a hero."
When Peralta posthumously received the Navy Cross in 2008, his family refused to accept the award as the debate about whether Peralta should receive the Medal of Honor raged.
His family changed their mind when they attended the keel-laying ceremony for the destroyer Rafael Peralta in October 2014, his sister, Icelda Peralta-Donald, told Marine Corps Times. Peralta's mother decided to donate her son's Navy Cross to the ship as part of a Navy tradition.
"That was her motivation to receive the Navy Cross," Peralta-Donald said for a May 29, 2015, story. "She feels that it will take Rafa's spirit and keep all the crew members safe. She feels that it will belong there."