A Marine’s story, from boyhood to battlefield
‘Act of Honor’ chronicles the life of immigrant and war hero Sgt. Rafael Peralta, who died saving comrades’ lives.
In the middle of “Act of Honor,” a History Channel documentary on the bravery of Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta, a fellow Marine remembers seeing Peralta during the battle for Fallouja in late 2004.
“He still had that wild look in his eye — fresh out of a fight,” says Sgt. Catcher Cuts the Rope, a Native American. “But he wasn’t scared or anything like that.”
Not that much later, Peralta volunteered to be part of a squad sent to rout insurgents from their barricaded lair in the most violent neighborhood of a violent city.
Searching a home for insurgents, he was hit by a blast of gunfire and knocked to the floor. But when an insurgent rolled a grenade toward the Marines, Peralta managed to smother it with his body, losing his life in the blast but saving the lives of five other Marines.
For his heroism that day, Peralta has become a legend among infantry Marines and has been nominated for the Medal of Honor.
Now the History Channel has done a first-rate job of tracing Peralta’s life as an immigrant from Mexico through his enlistment into the Marine Corps to his battlefield heroism and the devastating impact his death had on his family in San Diego. The effort will be broadcast in English on the History Channel and in Spanish on the History Channel en español.
The documentary incorporates a video diary of the Fallouja fight taken by a Marine in Peralta’s outfit, interviews with family members and Marines, and glimpses into boot camp and a program run by the Marine Corps for teenagers called the Devil Pups.
In the video diary, Gunnery Sgt. Jacob Murdock, exhausted and horrified by the battlefield, says simply, “We’re on the hunt now. We’re past preserving life. There are no friends to our front.”
Peralta is seen as a high-spirited young man, possessed of natural leadership. Still, he had a premonition he would not survive Iraq. He requested that he be baptized by a chaplain, who fashioned a font out of boxes and a plastic liner.
On the eve of battle he wrote a letter to his younger brother Ricardo, telling him, “You should be proud of being a U.S. citizen.”
The interviews with Peralta’s family are heart-rending. Ricardo speaks of wanting to enlist in the Marine Corps to avenge his brother.
He and sister Karen both went through Devil Pups after their brother’s death.
“I think he’s with me spiritually so I don’t feel alone,” Ricardo says.
Because of “Act of Honor,” Rafael Peralta will be with us all, as a symbol of service and sacrifice.
EARLY YEARS: Rafael Peralta as a smiling second-grader in Tijuana. The documentary depicts the young Marine as a natural leader.