A warship bearing the name of a Mexican-born US soldier who died in combat after saving the lives of his companions formally entered service in an emotional ceremony at a naval base in Coronado, California, on Sunday.
The USS Rafael Peralta was named in honor of the young man who immigrated with his family from Mexico to San Diego and joined the US Armed Forces the same day he obtained his permanent legal residence in this country.
US Commandant Robert Neller, a four-star general, said during the official ceremony that the warship commemorates the life and immortality of a hero.
He said that Sgt. Peralta’s legacy and his story will always be part of the vessel, given that all he ever wanted to be was to be an American and serve his new country.
Neller delivered his remarks to more than 2,000 people assembled at the Naval Air Station North Island, including congressmen and local officials.
Peralta was killed in November 2004 during a military operation in Iraq, intentionally falling onto a grenade to save the lives of his fellow soldiers.
His sacrifice was acknowledged in 2015 when the Navy Cross was presented to his family at a ceremony at Camp Pendleton.
Present at the ceremony on Sunday was Rosa Maria Peralta, the sergeant’s mother, accompanied by her children Ricardo, Icela and Karen Sarahi.
“All the people who are on that ship have the strength of my son and have a little of the spirit he had and has … He isn’t dead. For me, he lives in that ship and with each of those (crewmembers),” Peralta’s mother told EFE shortly before the ceremony.
The USS Rafael Peralta – an Arleigh Burke class destroyer – has more than 300 crewmembers.
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