Semper Fi

Jeff Jacoby writes of the death of a Marine:

On the morning of Nov. 15, one week into the battle for Fallujah, his [Sergeant Rafael Peralta of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 3d Marines] squad had cleared three houses without incident. They approached a fourth, kicking in two locked doors simultaneously and entering both front rooms. They found them empty. Another closed door led to an adjoining room. As the other Marines spread out, wrote Kaemmerer, “Peralta, rifle in hand, tested the handle.” It wasn’t locked. He threw open the door, preparing to rush in — and three terrorists with AK-47s opened fire. He was shot multiple times in the chest and face. As he fell, severely wounded, he managed to wrench himself out of the doorway to give his fellow Marines a clear line of fire.

The gunfire was deafening. To the sound of the terrorists’ AK-47s was added the din of the Marines’ M16 rifles and Squad Automatic Weapon, a machine gun. The battle was raging, with Peralta down and bleeding heavily and the other Marines firing at the enemy in the back room, when, in Kaemmerer’s words, ”a yellow, foreign-made, oval-shaped grenade bounced into the room, rolling to a stop close to Peralta’s nearly lifeless body.”

As the other Marines tried to flee, Peralta reached for the grenade and tucked it into his gut. Seconds later, it exploded with such force that when his remains were returned to his family for burial, they were able to identify him only by the tattoo on his shoulder. His five comrades-in-arms, shielded from the worst of the blast by Peralta’s last act as a Marine, survived.

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