By: Gunnery Sgt. Nick "Pop" Popaditch
I was the Tank Commander of Charlie 1-4, and the Platoon Sergeant
of Charlie Company's 1st Platoon. We had just relieved the Army in
Fallujah. My Platoon had been operating with relatively little rest
in support of the 1st Marine Regiment, although the contact had been
pretty light. We had been operating on the East side of the town
and the enemy insurgents there had little desire to tangle with Marine
My Platoon had just come in from 3 day's duty out at a coalition
strongpoint out in town. Regiment had nothing planned for Tanks that
day so it appeared my Marines would get some overdue rest and a chance
to turn a few wrenches on the Tanks. We had only been back about
an hour when bad news arrived. We were eating breakfast in the firm
base chow hall when word arrived about some Americans killed out
in town. Worst still, their bodies were being desecrated in the streets.
Very shortly after that, I received the word to ready the Platoon
to move out again.
I informed the Marines of 1st Platoon about the morning's events.
I told them "Nobody does that to Americans," and to mount up and
prepare to move out! The looks in their eyes and on their faces told
me that the insurgents had made a grievous error in picking a fight
with the United States Marine Corps.
By the time we departed the firm base, more details had arrived.
The enemy insurgents (I only use this term to describe them for lack
of a better one as there really is no good term for such a dishonorable
excuse for a human being) had hung the corpses from a train trestle
and were vowing to turn Fallujah into a graveyard for Americans.
The first couple of days of the Fallujah offensive were mostly uneventful.
We did a lot of reconnaissance of the enemy and they occasionally
probed us. After a couple of days of this, the Marines were itching
for a fight. We would get one soon.
I received orders to take my Tank section (two Tanks-mine and my
wingman) to support Fox Company who had been in contact with enemy
probes the night before. I arrived at Fox's AO (area of operations)
on the Northwest corner of Fallujah, and located their CO. After
a brief meeting we agreed the best place for my Tank was at the center
of their company's defensive line, with my wingman protecting my
flank. My position was good. I was about 200 meters from the first
row of buildings, I had a good berm in front of my Tank to protect
from RPG's, a train trestle overhead for mortars, and a lot of grunts
in elevated positions. Life was good except that we weren't here
to defend, we were anxious to attack!
About mid-day, Fox conducted a security patrol to prevent the enemy
from working in close for a mortar or RPG shot. We were unaware of
how close the enemy had already come. About ten minutes into their
patrol, the infantry squad was ambushed. I couldn't see it, but I
heard the insurgents open up with RPG's, AK-47's, and RPK machine
guns. This was a little more committed than the enemy usually engaged.
The infantry squad took a casualty, set up a base of fire, and called
for support. I asked the CO if he needed the Tanks. He agreed, "Roll
Tanks!" At last, we were on the offensive.
I took the lead with my wingman behind me. As I passed through the
infantry squad, I saw a Corpsman rendering first-aid to a Marine
who had been shot in the face. I was to later learn that this Marine
not only survived but returned to his unit to finish the deployment.
My Tank crew and I were like sharks with blood in the water, and
the enemy insurgents were eager enough to fight with Tanks. There
was no coordination or reason to their attacks. They would pop out
of buildings or doorways and take a shot at my Tank. Usually their
RPG shot wouldn't hit, but almost always my Tank's machine guns or
main gun would. In a short while, I had taken a couple of RPG hits
(resulting in no damage) and had inflicted over a dozen kills on
the enemy. By now, Fox Co. 2nd Platoon had worked their way into
the city alongside of my Tank. Fallujah was going to be a graveyard
alright, but not for Americans.
We began to work our way into the city. I would lead with my Tank.
My wingman would trail about a block back, covering my flanks and
rear. The infantry would work building to building, covering my move
from the rooftops. This technique was very successful as enemy insurgents
would attempt to shoot and then flee into buildings not knowing our
infantry were over the top directing the Tank's main gun onto target
of whatever room in whatever building the enemy thought he was safe.
We used this tactic to take block after block. Soon we had a pretty
good tally of enemy kills and the remaining enemy were getting less
eager to tangle with a Marine Tank. The next tactic we employed was
after a period of more than ten minutes without a contact, I would
start to back up the Tank as if I were leaving. The enemy would come
out for one last shot. I would then order the Tank back forward again
and continue to kill the enemy. I was amazed at how often this would
My Tank crew and I fed off each other's motivation and intensity.
My gunner, Corporal Chambers, surgically removed enemy from the face
of the Earth with the Tank's main gun and coax machine gun. My loader,
Lance Corporal Hernandez, courageously manned his machine gun and
put down many insurgents. My driver, Lance Corporal Frias, flawlessly
maneuvered the Tank down tight city streets. We took block after
block. The infantry rallied behind the carnage the Tank was dispensing.
The only problem was that we were expending a lot of ammunition.
Late that afternoon, I began to run low on ammunition. Because I
was in the lead, I had expended much more ammunition than my wingman,
Staff Sergeant Escamilla. His Tank still had a relatively full combat
load. I backed up to closer to his Tank and the infantry put down
some good suppressive fire. Our two crews quickly transferred ammunition
from his Tank to mine. The problem was solved, at least temporarily.
Back into the lead and back into the attack I went. I was only monitoring
my Platoon's radio frequency and that of Fox Company, so my situational
awareness of what was going on with the rest of the Task Force was
limited. The CO informed me that we were the furthest penetration
into the city, which was very motivating. This also was good news
because with no friendly units to the left or right or ahead, there
was no need to deconflict fires before I shot. The enemy fights very
asymmetrically in Fallujah, and the ability to engage more quickly
resulted in less insurgents getting away. A Tank in a city is like
a bull in a china cabinet. With all the friendlies well behind us,
this was a very good thing and very bad for the enemy! The attack
was going well, but the enemy had prepared to ! make a stand against
us up ahead.
About two blocks to our front was a courtyard. Blocking the entrance
were two telephone poles with power lines strung between them like
a fishing net. Generally all obstacles are covered by fire and it
was obvious that the courtyard was the killsack for this ambush.
As I closed on this obstacle, I observed many sandbagged fighting
positions in the courtyard. I didn't know if the power lines were
electrified and I really didn't want to find out the hard way. The
one thing that the enemy didn't count on was that about a half block
short of the obstacle, I could see almost the entire courtyard. I
stopped there and showed the insurgents that a few sandbag bunkers
against a 68 ton Main Battle Tank was a poor choice and a quick end
to your life. We killed about ten enemy and only a few were! quick
enough to escape. The power line obstacle had brought our advance
to a halt, however.
I called up higher on the radio and asked if we had any engineering
assets available. I don't think anybody thought that a Bangalore
torpedo or line charge would be an overly useful item in an urban
fight. We had none. I looked for a bypass. There was an alley unblocked
to the right. About ten meters down that alley was a fuel tanker
truck trailer parked. Obviously this was the route the enemy wanted
me to take. I was sure it was full and wired to blow. I began to
plan other options. I couldn't stand the fact that our attack had
been halted and I began to grow impatient.
Luckily, during this time there was a building in the courtyard
that must have been a stockpile point for weapons for them. About
every ten minutes, an insurgent would attempt to make it across the
courtyard and enter it. Sometimes they would actually make it only
to get killed taking an RPG shot at us on the way out. This kept
my gunner busy while I plotted.
I figured that the power lines would get tangled in my track and
possibly halt my Tank in the courtyard. In addition to this, I still
didn't know if they were electrified. I eliminated the bypass as
an option, due to the fuel trailer. I didn't have any main gun ammunition
to spare to attempt knocking the telephone poles down which supported
the power lines. That would be a difficult shot and I figured it
would take too many rounds before I hit it. Also, there still was
a small portion of the courtyard that I hadn't been able to see up
The success we had caused me to grow more impatient with this halt
in our attack. I had a plan. I wasn't overly thrilled with it but
I couldn't stand the thought that the enemy insurgents had stopped
me even more. I informed my wingman and the infantry platoon that
I intended to ram the obstacle at an angle where I would hopefully
hit mostly telephone pole and entangle as little power line as possible
in my track. If I sealed my hatches shut, I figured that the distance
from the fuel trailer was enough that it would do no damage other
spray burning fuel on the outside of the Tank. I was mostly concerned
about the fire I would inevitably take when I entered the courtyard.
I knew that between the power lines and the certain RPG shots, there
was a good possibility that I would be immobil! ized in the courtyard
so I needed Staff Sergeant Escamilla's Tank and the infantry platoon
to be prepared to enter the courtyard closely behind me and take
the lead if my Tank was immobilized. As I said I wasn't thrilled
with this plan, but it was the best I had. Luckily, just prior to
executing it, the CO called on the radio and presented another option.
I was informed that a C-130 Gunship would be on station, but
not until after the sun went down. The next problem was how to mark
the obstacle for the aircraft. First, I tried to give them a grid,
since we were deep into the city and the CO no longer had a visual
contact with us. I only had a 1:100,000 map, therefore I couldn't
give an accurate grid for an air strike. The aircraft could identify
my Tank, but not the obstacle. The only solution was for me to drive
up to it to designate it. Under the cover of darkness, I took my
Tank up to the obstacle. Just to be sure, I threw an infrared chemstick
onto it. The aircraft reported that it had a tally on the target.
I must admit that I was a little nervous being this close to the
obstacle without taking any fire, I was anxious for this obstacle
to be gone. The aircraft informed me to let them know when I was
125 meters away from the target. I thought they were being overly
cautious, so when I was about 100 meters away, I gave the green light.
As it turns out, they were not. The first impacts from the aircraft
were most impressive. The burst of the first salvo went all the way
to my Tank, very impressive! The Gunship continued to pound the target.
The resulting fuel explosion confirmed my suspicion that the tanker
was full of fuel. Soon the air strike ended and it was time to assess
I drove my Tank up and reported the following. "The obstacle
has been reduced. The IED (tanker truck trailer) had been destroyed.
Half of a city block had been destroyed (to include the previously
mentioned stockpile point). I could sense the motivation amongst
the Marines at the overwhelming success of the air strike.
What next? Night had fallen and the CO of Fox had asked for a SITREP
(situation report). I told him that the road was open and I wanted
to continue to press the attack! The enemy had surely been decimated
and demoralized by the Gunship's strike. We definitely had the initiative
and as a bonus, the Gunship was going to remain on station for a
while more. The CO gave the go-ahead to continue to push deeper into
I used the Gunship's overwatch to search for enemy out ahead. With
this and the Tank's thermal sights, I really had the advantage at
night. I chose to violently take the fight to the enemy. The insurgents
had very poor night vision and could easily be caught in the open
at night. Due to the rotor wash of the Gunship, they often didn't
hear the Tank coming until the first burst of my machineguns. The
speed that my Tank section and the Gunship could take the fight to
the enemy meant that the infantry were going to be left out of the
night's festivities. They went firm in two 3 story structures as
my Tank section sped off into the night.
We moved fast and shot accurately. We pushed deeper and deeper into
the city and left a trail of dead insurgents. Hunting was good that
night. I really think we caught them off guard being so deep into
Fallujah. Their communications weren't good and so few escaped my
fires that combined with the speed we moved at, we consistently had
the initiative and what seemed like complete surprise on the enemy.
I was so caught up in the attack that I had lost track of my ammunition
At approximately 0400, my gunner, Corporal Chambers informed me "Gunny,
I'm down to my last 200 rounds!" I informed the CO that I was black
on ammo and could no longer continue the attack. He ordered my Tank
section to return to where we had left the infantry, go firm and
I ordered Staff Sergeant Escamilla to turn around and go back exactly
the same way we had cut our way through the city. I would be the
last one out. Due to the casualties we had inflicted on the enemy
going in, we encountered no contact on the way back. In about a half
an hour we were back alongside our infantry, still about 1000 meters
deeper in the city than any other Coalition forces. We turned around
again and hunkered down for the next 2 hours until daybreak and hopefully,
My Tank crew and I alternated standing watch so that we all could
get at least a little rest. I shut the Tank's engine down and we
became a big metal bunker in the middle of that Fallujah city street
for the next 2 hours. After the previous 16 hours worth of firing
and destruction, everything seemed amazingly peaceful now. It was
strangely quiet. The enemy was going to take one last attempt at
my Tank before dawn, however.
I was standing watch, while the rest of my crew slept in their crew
positions. They had earned the rest even though they weren't going
to get much. Out of the pre- dawn quiet came the CRACK CRACK CRACK
of an assault rifle. It was not an AK-47 but it was very close. About
a second later, just as I was figuring out that the shots were from
an M-16, came a short burst from a SAW (squad automatic weapon).
It was the infantry in the buildings next to me who were firing and
they were shooting close! The firing then stopped as suddenly as
it had started and it was eerily silent. Shortly after that, I heard
the Marine infantry who had shot start to laugh a little. Marines
are amazing in our ability to find humor in just about anything.
"What's going on up there?" I called to them.
"Three of them were trying to infiltrate you, Gunny. You'll see them
when the sun comes up." They replied from the rooftop.
Soon the dawn broke on Fallujah. I must admit that I was surprised
to see that the dead enemy insurgents were only about ten meters
from the rear fender of my Tank. About as quickly as thoughts of
what could have happened were it not for the infantry came into my
head I put them back out and focused on the task ahead. I then had
a great sense of satisfaction. I thought of how the enemy had vowed
to make Fallujah a graveyard for Americans. Today, they would awaken
and see two Marine Tanks and a platoon of infantry defiantly set
up in the middle of their city. Many of the dead enemy combatants
still littered the streets around us. I figured this would serve
as a warning to any other insurgents as to the consequences of tangling
Soon civilians began to slowly appear in the streets. I knew some
of them were certainly insurgents with weapons hidden nearby. I was
sure they were looking for an opportunity and I didn't plan on giving
them one. We stood poised for a fight but due to our ammunition situation
could not continue to push forward into the city again.
I called on the radio and inquired about the resupply. I also informed
them that my Tanks were running low on fuel and that by tonight that
would be an issue also. I was informed that we were pretty far into
the city and moving ammunition to where we were at would be difficult
and to get fuel to me would be impossible. I couldn't stand the thought
of giving any of the ground we had taken back to the enemy, so I
figured we would deal with the fuel issue later. While I waited for
more ammo, I watched Iraqi civilians picking up all the expended
brass from my machine guns off the streets. I wondered if I should
stop them from doing that, but I couldn't think of a reason why.
The resupply arrived about an hour after daybreak. It came on foot!
Resupplying a Main Battle Tank is not a small task and is usually
done with large trucks. The high volume of RPG fire in this area
of Fallujah meant that no trucks were coming in here, certainly not
a fuel truck! I looked behind me and seen a column of running Marines.
They were in pairs, with ammo crates slung between them. The Marine
Corps commitment to mission accomplishment is amazing and the Fox
Co. Marines were going to get ammunition to me if they had to carry
it by hand, which they did!
The infantry platoon surged out of their buildings and pushed
forward ahead of my Tank, to provide an overwatch while my section
uploaded. The civilians saw the infantry moving and due to the life
the insurgents have forced them into, know how to anticipate when
a firefight is going to break out in their streets. They disappeared.
In The Iraqi Theater of operations, whenever the civilians are not
present at all, it indicates an impending insurgent attack. They
know who the enemy is and protect themselves from their violence.
The infantry's surge forward must have caught them off-guard. No
attack came and we were resupplied with machine gun ammunition. Main
gun ammo was again transferred from Staff Sergeant Escamilla's Tank
to mine, but again this was only a temporary fix as both of our Tanks
were extremely low on them. My crew and I linked up 2600 rounds of
7.62 mm and loaded it into the ready bin of the Tank.
I called the Fox CO and informed him that the resupply was complete
and we were prepared to continue the attack. I reminded him of my
low fuel situation and that I was very low on main gun ammunition.
He was going to resupply the other two Tanks in my platoon (the Platoon
Commander's Tank and his wingman) since they were still not into
the city yet. They would then relieve my Tank section and we would
go upload fuel and main gun ammo outside the city since those trucks
couldn't come in.
The infantry moved back into the two buildings that they had been
occupying and I moved back into the lead. We were ready to take the
fight to the enemy again. The Co told us to hold. We were much further
into the city than anyone else at this point and combined with our
fuel and ammo wasn't the best scenario for an attack. Much to our
disappointment, we stayed defensive and held the attack.
The enemy has the ability in Fallujah to move around unarmed
as a civilian and conduct recommaissance on us for their attacks.
All you can do is present as tough a target to them as possible;
be hard to kill. We must have done this well because it took about
an hour and a half before the first attack came. The urban environment
allows the enemy the ability to get very close to you before he has
to commit. The first enemy RPG shot was a good one, taken from very
close. It passed right between Lance Corporal Hernandez's head and
my head. It was so close that I felt the heat of it's rocket propulsion
on my face. The shooter was gone as quick as he shot. Not many got
away from my Tank, but this one did. He must have inspired the lesser
trained insurgents to fight.
Just like the previous day, they came out to attack my Tank. Again
there was no coordination to their attacks. The result was the same.
A few hits on my Tank, producing no damage, and many dead insurgents.
The only thing different about today was that we were stuck sitting
on the defensive and the enemy had the initiative. The attacks were
coming from a lot closer. I was getting anxious to get back on the
offensive. I wanted to take the fight to the enemy, not the other
This continued through the morning, netting us ten enemy kills. I
was then informed that the Platoon Commander's Tank had thrown track
outside of the city and had still not conducted it's resupply yet
either. It appeared our next attack would not be for a while. I would
One of the infantrymen on the rooftops spotted a dozen insurgents
gathering three blocks ahead. I called the CO and requested to go
back into the attack before they could get away. "Go get 'em!" was
his reply. That was the best news I heard all day. I commanded, "Red
3, this is Red4. Follow my move. Driver, move out!" We were back
on the attack and I was happy.
The speed that we were going to move with again meant that the infantry
would stay behind. My Tank charged ahead a couple blocks. We had
caught them in the open on a city street. They were assembled outside
of a mosque. All were males of what we referred to as "military aged" and
most had weapons, AK-47's. Half tried to flee into the mosque, none
made it. The other half of them ran around the corner down a narrow
street. It appeared to me that the mosque was a staging area and
almost certainly a stockpiling point for insurgent weapons. I could
stay and secure the mosque or pursue the fleeing insurgents. I decided
to stay on the attack and take the fight to the enemy. I commanded
my Tank and wingman to move out around the corner and down that narrow
Once I entered the street, I observed that the fleeing insurgents
had taken cover. My gunner, Corporal Chambers searched with the Tank's
high powered optics while Lance Corporal Hernandez and I scanned
from our hatches for enemy. The insurgents quickly darted from doorway
to doorway. Some we got some got away. They were definitely attempting
to get down this street away from my Tank. I didn't want to give
them a chance to dig in and defend so I kept up the pursuit.
The street got narrower as we went further down it. Soon, I could
no longer traverse my Tank's turret. I still had the two machine
guns on top to fight with so I continued. I couldn't stand the thought
of giving any of the ground we had taken back. I passed a small crossroad
about 8 feet wide. As I entered this intersection, I scanned to my
right for enemy. I spotted one about 50 feet away just as he fired
a RPG at my Tank.
I dropped into my hatch to swing my machine gun over and kill him.
His rocket hit the side of my turret, doing no damage. As I was swinging
my fifty calibre over, I didn't see the second insurgent firing from
the rooftop of a 3 story building next to me.
I heard a hiss about a split second before it hit me. The Rocket
Propelled Grenade hit right inside my hatch striking me on the head.
I saw a bright flash of light and then nothing but blackness. I had
been blinded in both eyes. It felt as though I had been hit in the
head with a sledgehammer and it knocked me down onto the turret floor.
I was still conscious so I stood back up. I couldn't hear anything
except a dull static-like humming in my ears.
I knew at the time that it was a RPG that had hit me. I couldn't
see anything so I reached up and felt my face. It was wet and gooey
feeling. My first concern was to get the Tank moving out of what
was obviously a bad place for it to be. Since I could not see to
direct the Tank, I grabbed Corporal Chambers by his flak jacket and
said to him. "Chambers, you've got to get the Tank moving. You've
got to start working on a medivac for me."
I could feel Chambers moving but he was not answering me. I repeated
my commands to Corporal Chambers. Again I received no response. I
was to figure out later that he had been answering me but I couldn't
hear it. Corporal Chambers had been wounded himself yet he unhesitatingly
moved out of his gunner's position and into the Tank Commander's
hatch, the same hatch I had just been blown out of. I felt the Tank
begin to move forward and I felt good about that.
The RPG had hit me on the head inside the Commander's hatch. The
majority of shrapnel ended up in my Flak jacket, helmet, and head.
Shrapnel struck Lance Corporal Hernandez in the left hand and Corporal
Chambers in the left tricep. I wonder what the insurgent who fired
the rocket must have thought after seeing it score a direct hit inside
the hatch and then see all the crewmen of the Tank still on their
feet, to include the one he had hit with the rocket. He must have
thought, "What do I have to do to kill these Americans!"
The gunner on a Main Battle Tank has the most restricted field of
view and perception of the world outside of the Tank, although he
is the second in command. Corporal Chambers got the Tank moving,
but he didn't know exactly where we were at. We were deep into the
city at this time. Lance Corporal Hernandez because of his position
up top manning a machine gun knew the way back. He directed Chambers
which way to go. Hernandez's hand was bleeding profusely and he had
to drop down to apply a pressure dressing. At this point the driver,
Lance Corporal Frias took over the direction of the Tank. There would
be no medivac to where we were at, so my Tank had to return to the
Fox Co. defensive line and Frias knew the way.
I must wonder again what the enemy must have thought after hitting
this American Tank with everything it had only to see it drive right
through their ambush and continue on its way. I was truly lucky to
be in command of what I believe to be the best Tank crew in the Marine
Corps. Pressure brings out the best in some people and I am alive
today because of their actions under fire.
During the trip back to the Fox defensive line, I began to try to
figure out how bad I had been hit. I couldn't see and I couldn't
hear and that wasn't good. I could feel that I was bleeding badly
from my head and neck, which also wasn't good. I was still conscious
and I was still standing up. This was very good. I was in little
pain, my whole head felt somewhat numb. I felt both nauseous and
sleepy; very sleepy as if I just lay down on the turret floor and
went to sleep I would feel better. I knew that was bad and I focused
on staying awake. I grabbed onto the Tanks turret to help me stay
on my feet.
The next thing I remember was feeling the Tank pitch back and then
slam forward forcefully. I knew this could only be one place. We
had just crossed the same berm I was set up behind two days ago in
the Fox Co. defensive line. I knew the medivac was soon. I felt good
about things at this point and knew that everything was going to
be all right. The Tank stopped and I climbed to the top of the turret
and waited for someone to come and get me.
Soon Marines and Corpsmen came and pulled me down from the Tank and
began to render first aid. During this, mortar rounds began to impact
near us. The Corpsmen who were treating me took off their own body
armor and piled it on top of me to protect my wounded body. The dedication
and skill displayed by these men was truly extraordinary.
Next I was placed on a Humvee and transported to a surgical unit.
While I was there, I could hear (I was starting to get a little hearing
back in my left ear) a commotion going on near my stretcher. I asked
who was there. The response was, "General Hagee." Although the Commandant
of the Marine Corps is not a doctor, there is something about his
presence in the hospital that makes you feel that everything is going
to be all right. Marines take care of their own!
I was then sedated for the removal of what remained of my right eye.
I awoke and felt as though I was moving. I asked into the darkness, "Where
"You're on a plane to Germany, dude," was the response.
Popaditch, who lost his
right eye after a rocket propelled grenade blew up in his face
in Fallujah, Iraq on April 7, said being home to watch his son's
first little league season is a real treat. Despite his injuries,
which include total hearing loss in his right ear and the loss
of his sense of smell, Popaditch is adamant about returning to
full duty and serving with his Marines.
Don't We hear About These Guys?
stuff you hear about in boot camp, about World War II and Tarawa
Marines who won the Medal of Honor," Lance Cpl. Rob Rogers
of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment told the Army Times.
Cpl. Rogers was describing the actions of his fellow Marine, Sgt.
Rafael Peralta, a Mexican immigrant who enlisted in the Marine
Corps the day he received his green card.
readers of this column probably haven't heard about Rafael Peralta.
With the exception of the Los Angeles Times, most of our mainstream
media haven't bothered to write about him. The next time you log
onto the Internet, do a Google search on Rafael Peralta. As of
this writing, the Internet's most used search engine will provide
you only 26 citations from news sources that have bothered to write
about this heroic young man. Then, just for giggles, do a Google
search on Pablo Paredes. Hundreds of media outlets have written
about him. The wire services have blasted his story to thousands
of newspapers. Television and radio debate programs gladly provide
the public with talking heads that can speak eloquently on the
actions of Pablo Paredes.
see, Pablo Paredes, a Navy petty officer 3rd class, did something
the liberal elites consider "heroic" and the media consider "newsworthy" -
he defied an order. Last week, Petty Officer Paredes refused to
board his ship bound for Iraq along with 5,000 other sailors and
Marines. He showed up on the pier wearing a black T-shirt that
read, "Like a Cabinet member, I resign."
know this because Petty Officer Pablo Paredes had the courtesy
and forethought to notify the local media he would commit an act
of cowardice the following day. Perhaps he hoped to follow the
lead of another famous war protester who went on to become a U.S.
senator and his party's presidential nominee by throwing away his
Officer Paredes stopped short of trashing his military I.D. in
front of the cameras because he said he didn't want to be charged
with destroying government property. The media, we are promised,
will continue to follow this story intently.
is a shame the media focus on such acts when they could tell stories
about real-heroes like Rafael Peralta who "saved the life
of my son and every Marine in that room," according to Garry
Morrison the father of a Marine in Sgt. Peralta's unit - Lance
Cpl. Adam Morrison.
the morning of Nov. 15, the men of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines awoke
before sunrise and continued what they had done seven days previously
- cleansing the city of Fallujah of terrorists house by house.
the fourth house they encountered that morning, the Marines kicked
in the door and "cleared" the front rooms, but then noticed
a locked door off to the side that required inspection. Sgt. Rafael
Peralta threw open the closed door, but behind it were three terrorists
with AK-47s. Peralta was hit in the head and chest with multiple
shots at close range.
fellow Marines had to step over his body to continue the shootout
with the terrorists. As the firefight raged, a "yellow, foreign-made,
oval-shaped grenade," as Lance Cpl. Travis Kaemmerer described
it, rolled into the room where they stood and stopped near Peralta's
Sgt. Rafael Peralta wasn't dead - yet. This young immigrant of
25 years, who enlisted in the Marines when he received his green
card, who volunteered for front-line duty in Fallujah, had one
last act of heroism in him.
Rafael Peralta was the polar opposite of Pablo Paredes, the petty
officer who turned his back on his shipmates and mocked his commander
in chief. Peralta was proud to serve his adopted country. In his
parent's home, on his bedroom walls were hung only three items - a
copy of the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and his boot
camp graduation certificate. Before he set out for Fallujah, he
wrote to his 14-year-old brother, "Be proud of me, bro ...
and be proud of being an American.">
only can Rafael's family be proud of him, but his fellow Marines
are alive because of him. As Sgt. Rafael Peralta lay near death
on the floor of a Fallujah terrorist hideout, he spotted the yellow
grenade that rolled next to his near-lifeless body. Once detonated,
it would take out the rest of Peralta's squad. To save his fellow
Marines, Peralta reached out, grabbed the grenade, and tucked it
under his abdomen where it exploded.
of the Marines in the house were in the immediate area of the grenade," Cpl.
Kaemmerer said. "We will never forget the second chance at
life that Sgt. Peralta gave us."
unlike Pablo Paredes, Sgt. Rafael Peralta will get little media
coverage. He is unlikely to have books written about him or movies
made about his extraordinarily selfless sacrifice. But he is likely
to receive the Medal of Honor. And that Medal of Honor is likely
to be displayed next to the only items that hung on his bedroom
wall - the Constitution, Bill of Rights and his Boot Camp graduation
Virginia, there are still heroes in America, and Sgt. Rafael Peralta
was one of them. It's just too bad the media can't recognize them.
Rafael Peralta has been nominated
for the nation's highest honor: the Medal of Honor.