Navy to christen the USS Rafael Peralta

The Navy will christen its newest guided-missile destroyer Rafael Peralta this Saturday at a ceremony in Maine.

The USS Rafael Peralta honors Marine Corps Sgt. Rafael Peralta, who was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for saving the lives of fellow Marines during the second battle of Fallujah in 2004. 

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Supporters of Peralta have fought to reopen a nomination of Peralta for the Medal of Honor, but then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced last year after extensive review that it would remain closed.

As a scout team leader with Company A, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines Regiment, Peralta was leading a team in a series of house clearings in Fallujah. 

While clearing a house, he was hit by fire. When an insurgent threw a grenade at him and two Marines, Peralta absorbed most of the blast, which saved the lives of the others.

Although Peralta was awarded the Navy Cross, he was not awarded the Medal of Honor due to doubt over whether he had consciously covered the grenade or whether he was already clinically dead when he did so. 

Both former secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta had also declined to award Peralta with the nation's highest battlefield honor. 

"The tremendous efforts of the highly-skilled men and women of the General Dynamics Bath Iron Works team have brought this ship from an idea to a reality," said Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus in a statement.

"Their work will ensure that the heroism, service and sacrifice of Marine Corps Sergeant Rafael Peralta will be honored and remembered by all who come in contact with DDG 115 long after this great warship is christened."

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller will speak at the ceremony, which will be hosted at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine. 

The destroyer is the third of 14 warships under the program DDG 51, which will provide multi-mission offensive and defensive capabilities.