Jumping on Grenade

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Sgt. Rafael Peralta died while smothering a grenade during the battle for Fallujah.

I just came across a story today about Pfc. Ricardo Peralta, who joined the Marines to carry on the legacy of his brother, Navy Cross Recipient Sergeant Rafael Peralta.

Sgt. Peralta died very much like Michael Monsoor when he led a group of other Marines through a series of house clearings, during the November 2004 Battle for Fallujah. They were successful in the first three house, but things went bad in a hurry as they charged the fourth.

The Landstuhl Hospital Care Project describes how Sgt. Peralta “found two rooms empty on the ground floor, but upon opening a third door he was hit multiple times with AK-47 fire that left him severely wounded. He dropped to the floor and moved aside in order to allow the Marines behind him to return fire.”

Moments later terrorist inside the room threw a grenade at the Marines. Sgt. Peraldas describes how “The two Marines with Sgt. Peralta tried to get out of the room, but could not. Sgt. Peralta was still conscious on the floor and reports indicate that despite his wounds, he was able to reach for the grenade and pull it under his body absorbing the majority of the lethal blast and shrapnel which killed him instantly, but saved the lives of his fellow Marines.”

In a Newsweek article about the event, Cpl. Robert Reynolds explained how Sgt. Peralta collapsed onto the floor in a “pool of blood,” after being shot. “Then Reynolds spotted what is the dread of every infantryman: a grenade bouncing toward the squad. “It was yellow and it came from a room to our side,” he says. Reynolds says he watched Peralta reach out and drag the grenade under his body.”

Pfc Ricardo Peralta was only 14 when his brother died in such a selfless way, but is quoted in the above article as saying, “I knew what I had to do, and that was to enlist in the Marine Corps.”

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The grave of Medal of Honor Recipient Pfc. David Nash. St. Mary of the Woods Cemetery, Whitesville, Kentucky.

It occurred to me after I posted the moving story Sergeant Rafael Peralta how some people might find it hard to believe that an American Serviceman would do such like jumping on grenade.

However, this is not an uncommon thing in the American Armed Forces. I grew up in Owensboro, Kentucky, for example, and will always remember the time a relative took me to visit the memorial for Pfc. David Nash, in nearby Whitesville. Very much like Sgt. Peralta and Michael Monsoor, this 21 year old young man, who was in the prime of his life, also jumped on a grenade to save the lives of his fellow soldiers during the Vietnam War. It was hard for me to believe that tiny little Whitesville, Kentucky produced such a man and I don not hesitate to say it gave caused a flood of emotion, and no small amount of pride, to stand there and read about his deeds.

Relatives say Jason never regained consciousness after sustaining a head injury when he jumped on a grenade, April 14, in the Iraqi city of Karbala.

I had the privilege of meeting Dan and Debbie Dunham at a recent event. Their 22 year old son Cpl. Jason Dunham also received the Medal of Honor posthumously, for throwing himself on a grenade in 2004 during the war in Iraq. When I told Mrs. Dunham about this blog and my desire to recognize and celebrate the heroism of American fighting men she emphatically responded, “Keep it up, we need to tell their stories.”

You might think I have run out of names, but I have not.

Nineteen year old Pfc. Ross McGinnis also joined the hallowed ranks of those who gave their lives so that others might live and he did so in exactly the same manner. Take time to look at the picture of him on the front page of this website and what you will see is a smiling young kid, bursting with life. Yet this young man accomplished a man size feat, on December 4, 2006, when he chose to give his life for others. Lastly there is Medal of Honor recipient, Jack Lucas who covered two live grenades, during the WWII battle for Iwo Jima. Although one of the grenades was a dud, Jack Lucas absorbed the explosion of the other and ultimately saved those in the trench with him. He was only 17 at the time, but miraculously survived to tell the story.

Stop for a moment and reflect on the unselfishness it takes to perform such an act and the frequency with which Americans have done this.

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