USS Rafael Peralta Named for Former California Conservation Corpsmember


Sgt. Rafael Peralta in Marine uniform (left) -- Rafael as a San Diego crew leader (right)

From the California Conservation Corps

The Secretary of the Navy has announced that one of its next five ships will be named in honor of Marine Staff Sgt. Rafael Peralta.  The ship will be a guided-missile destroyer.

Rafael was a former California Conservation Corps crewleader at the San Diego Center in 1998-99. He was 25 when he was killed in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004, while covering an exploding grenade with his body, thus saving the lives of several fellow Marines. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.

Rafael's supervisors while in the CCC in San Diego included Cynthia Aguayo, Brian Lussier and Jennifer Reed, all of whom were impressed by his dedication.   

 "He knew what he wanted and had a plan for his life," Cynthia said.  "He was very enthusiastic about everything he did and a great motivator for P.T."

Brian promoted him to crewleader and recognized his drive. "He tried really hard and always went above and beyond." Brian still remembers a 10-day spike with Rafael and crew in the Anza-Borrego desert, where the crew hiked three miles to work each day and removed tamarisk plants.

Jennifer said "of anybody there in San Diego, he made the greatest impression of being a role model for other corpsmembers. He was an outstanding young man, a leader," she said. "I recall him coming back to see us in his Marine uniform," Jennifer said. "He was so proud and looked so sharp."

Type of destroyer to be named after Rafael Peralta

Congressman Duncan Hunter has been a longtime advocate for Peralta's recognition and is still urging the Navy to award him the Medal of Honor. Hunter added an amendment to the defense budget to name the next available Navy ship after him.  Hunter also pressed for naming a ship after San Diegan John Finn.

San Diego C II Philip Lembke recalls Peralta's CCC days and was pleased to hear about the Navy honor.

"I've been following the Congressman's fight for this, and I'm overjoyed ... 'Rafa' was a determined, focused and committed young man, whose purpose was to achieve his goals, in order to make life better for him and his family."

An editorial in the Union-Tribune of San Diego noted with pride that three of the five new ships will be named after San Diegans.  It concluded:

"It's not yet known where the three ships will be based.  But if they ever find their way into San Diego Bay, go down and think about Peralta, Johnson and Finn.  What they did, they did for you."