Memorial Day 2006 Message from DHS/USCIS Director Gonzalez

What follows is an excerpt from comments made in May 2006 by Emilio T. Gonzalez, PhD., Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services:

General Douglas MacArthur said, "The soldier, above all other men, is required to perform the highest act of religious teaching -sacrifice."

On Memorial Day, we come together to reflect on the character of those who have bravely served our nation and pay tribute to our fallen heroes, honoring the legacy they have left and the freedom that they have secured for future generations. Their lives represent the fighting spirit that is America. For those who fought bravely to sustain our nation, we owe our commitment and continued dedication to secure our homeland.

One such American hero is Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta. Born in Mexico and living in San Diego, 25-year-old Rafael Peralta joined the Marines the day after he became a legal permanent resident. He later earned his citizenship while on active duty.

Sgt. Peralta constantly looked for opportunities to help his fellow Marines, which explains why he volunteered to join combat operations in Fallujah on November 15, 2004.

On that day Sgt. Peralta led a squad of six Marines through a terrorist hide-out and was shot in the face and chest as he burst into a closed room. In the ensuing firefight, four Marines maneuvered into the room where Peralta lay wounded, when one of the terrorists tossed a grenade into the room close to Peralta. In his final moments, Sgt. Peralta pulled the grenade close to him, smothered its blast with his body, and saved the lives of his fellow Marines.

"Be proud to be an American," Peralta wrote to his younger brother in a letter that arrived home the day after he lost his life in Iraq. Sgt. Rafael Peralta, a true American hero, has been recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor.

A long-time friend of mine, and fellow former Marine, noted "This hit me hard. Again, to be born in the US is winning the greatest lottery in life. Others have to sacrifice to get what we are born with."

Semper Fi.

- Brian

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