MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
Many recruits spend their childhood playing soldier and having aspirations to be in the military when they grow up, but some have life-altering experiences that spark their desire to serve their country. Pfc. Ricardo Peralta, Platoon 1045, Company C, is one of the few.
“I had no interest in the Marine Corps,” said Peralta. “I wanted to enter the medical field, until my brother passed away,” said the Chula Vista, Calif., native. “That is when I had a sudden urge to enlist. My brother influenced me and I want to be just like him. He is my hero.
On November 15, 2004, his brother, Sgt. Rafael Peralta, deployed to Iraq as a scout team leader assigned to Co. A, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, was ordered to clear houses.
Sgt. Peralta led his team through a series of house clearings before charging into the fourth house. He found two rooms empty on the ground floor, but when Sgt. Peralta opened a third door he was hit multiple times with AK-47 fire, leaving him severely wounded. He dropped to the floor and moved aside in order to allow the Marines behind him to return fire.
The insurgents responded by throwing a grenade at the Marines. The two Marines with Sgt. Peralta tried to get out of the room, but could not. Sgt. Peralta was still conscious on the floor and reports indicate that despite his wounds, he was able to reach for the grenade and pull it under his body absorbing the majority of the lethal blast and shrapnel which killed him instantly, but saved the lives of his fellow Marines.
Sgt. Peralta was awarded the Navy Cross, the second highest award a United States Marine can receive.
Peralta was 14 years old when he lost his big brother. Since then, he has spent his life emulating him.
Although his brother was stationed away from the family or deployed frequently, when his father died, his brother came home a lot more often to look out for him.
“We were close,” said Pfc. Peralta. “Every week, he would take me to get a haircut with him. I have been getting a high and tight for a long time now. He would also bring me to the depot to run errands with him.”
Peralta recalled being at the depot’s gas station with his brother, when his brother’s friend asked him if (Pfc. Peralta) was going to be a Marine. He said that he immediately shook his head no.
Little did he know, that upon his high school graduation he would be enlisting in the Marine Corps and earning the title Marine, just like his brother.
He said that his mother was worried about him enlisting because she didn’t want to lose another son in combat, but eventually she accepted his decision and supports him whole heartedly.
Peralta, now 19 years old, admitted that boot camp was more of a mental challenge for him. He said that he didn’t struggle much with the physicality, but suffered from a severe case of homesickness.
“He has a rough start at the beginning of recruit training,” said Sgt. David Adames, drill instructor, Platoon 1045, Co. C. “But after he was put in a leadership position for a short time, he had a major improvement. He is definitely a diligent and hard worker.”
Although his drill instructors were able to get under his skin, Pfc. Peralta found peace and happiness on the rifle range during his marksmanship training.
“My coach told me to simply relax and pull the trigger, and it worked for me. I shot expert,” said Peralta. “I really enjoyed our time at the range.”
During his company’s Crucible at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Peralta said his brother came to mind more than ever. The Crucible is 54-hour cumulative combat simulation event where recruits are tested on everything they have learned while being both sleep and food deprived.
He said that whenever he was tired and didn’t think he could finish something, thoughts of his brother flooded his head, and he pushed on.
“I have become more patriotic since I have been at boot camp,” said Peralta. “In one of my brother’s final letters he said, ‘Be proud you are an American.’ When I was on top of the Reaper I thought about what he said, and really felt it.”
Adames said that the drill instructors never treated Peralta different than the other recruits because of his brother, and that Peralta rarely spoke about his brother, but the one time he did, it was an emotional moment.
“During value-based training, he spoke about his brother and some of the recruits welled up with tears,” said Adames.
Peralta said that words cannot explain how it feels to be a Marine. He said that he has been waiting to earn the title Marine and now that he has, he is consumed with an overwhelming sense of pride.
After graduation, he will take 10 days of boot leave before reporting to the School of Infantry, Camp Pendleton, Calif., to train for his occupation as a rifleman.
“I chose to be a grunt because my brother was, said Peralta. “He motivated me to be an infantryman and will always motivate me to be the best Marine I can be.”