Navy commissions USS Rafael Peralta in San Diego

CORONADO (CNS) - The Navy's latest destroyer entered service Saturday during a ceremony in Coronado, where the vessel will be named in memory of a Marine from San Diego who was killed in action in 2004 in Fallujah, Iraq.

The commissioning of the USS Rafael Peralta honors a 1997 Morse High School graduate who became a Marine sergeant.

Peralta was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his actions in a firefight, in which he was seriously wounded by a gunshot to the head before being killed by a grenade. A bid by Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-Alpine, for Peralta to receive the Medal of Honor was rejected by defense officials amid questions about whether he consciously pulled the grenade under his body to save fellow Marines.

"This commissioning memorializes the life of Sgt. Rafael Peralta and marks the beginning of what will be decades of exceptional service for this ship," said Sean Stackley, acting secretary of the Navy.

During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Sgt. Peralta acted heroically and sacrificed himself for his fellow Marines," Stackley said.

"He was proud to be an American, proud to be a Marine and we are proud to welcome USS Rafael Peralta to the fleet," he said. "I have no doubt the men and women who serve aboard Peralta will continue his legacy of service."

Gen. Robert Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, will deliver the ceremony's principal address.

The City Council proclaimed Tuesday to be Sgt. Peralta Day" in San Diego.

Councilman David Alvarez said Peralta, born in 1979 in Mexico City, joined the Marines as soon as he was eligible and became a U.S. citizen.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Rafael Peralta will carry the words "courageous to the end" as it sails around the world, the councilman said.

"The ship and these words will ensure that the world always remember and be inspired by the sacrifice of Sgt. Peralta -- a young man who couldn't wait to join the Corps, to serve his country, a man who loved his family deeply, a man who put the welfare and lives of his fellow Marines above his own, a young man who was truly courageous to the end," Alvarez said.

Peralta's mother, Rosa Maria, and sister, Icela, thanked the council members for the honor. Rosa Maria serves as the ship's sponsor.

The vessel is the 64th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.

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