USS Rafael Peralta commissioned in Coronado

CORONADO, Calif. — The Navy’s latest destroyer entered service Saturday during a ceremony in Coronado, where the vessel was named in memory of a Marine from San Diego who was killed in action in 2004 in Fallujah, Iraq.

The commissioning of the USS Rafael Peralta honors a 1997 Morse High School graduate who became a Marine sergeant.

“To be complete, a ship requires three things,” said Gen. Robert Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps. “The ship — the hull, the super structure, the weaponry, the technology. It requires a name to give it the spirit of its legacy, and it requires a crew.”

Neller delivered his remarks from the deck of the ship to a crowd gathered on the pier below at NAS North Island during a ceremony that lasted more than an hour.

“When you put those three things together, you create more than just a ship. It’s a life form,” Neller said. “And the commissioning of this ship will mark its formal acceptance into the fleet.”

Peralta was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his actions in a firefight, in which he was seriously wounded by a gunshot to the head before being killed by a grenade. A bid by Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-Alpine, for Peralta to receive the Medal of Honor was rejected by defense officials amid questions about whether he consciously pulled the grenade under his body to save fellow Marines.

The City Council proclaimed last Tuesday to be “Sgt. Peralta Day” in San Diego.

Peralta’s mother, Rosa Maria, his sisters and brother were also on hand for the commissioning ceremony.

The vessel is the 64th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.

“To our Marine Corps, to our families, to the nation, this is more than just another commissioning,” Neller said. “It marks the commemoration of a life and I say the immortality of a hero.”