Southwestern College dedicates garden in honor of Sgt. Rafael Peralta

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - A brick walkway and flag garden named for a Marine who died in Iraq was dedicated Tuesday at Southwestern College in Chula Vista.

The Sgt. Rafael Peralta Garden of Honor is located outside the school's Veterans Resource Center. Peralta attended the college's police academy.

Bricks in the walkway include the names of local veterans. Student veterans display the American flag, the POW flag and a flag for each branch of the military in the garden each morning, according to the college.

Sgt. Peralta's family was present for the dedication.

“It’s almost his death anniversary when the battle of Fallujah was really strong so it means a lot. Many memories, it’s just a lot of emotions right now,”

His sister says the garden being named in her brother's honor is something the family is proud of.

“This is beautiful. This is what while he was in the Marines he came here for the Police Academy so he already had plans to serve our country as a police officer so unfortunately he never finished that and having him as a garden and honoring him with a garden is just beautiful," said Sister, Icela Peralta.

Peralta was killed during the battle of Fallujah in 2004. During house- to-house fighting on Nov. 15 that year, he was seriously wounded by a gunshot to the head before being killed by a grenade.

Peralta was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, but a bid for the graduate of Morse High School in San Diego to receive the Medal of Honor was rejected by defense officials amid uncertainty over whether he consciously pulled the grenade under his body to save his fellow Marines.

“I would rather have my brother here it doesn’t matter because I know he’s not coming back but my daughters never got to see their uncle but I can bring them over here and they get to know the story about their uncle and know it’s our hero not just their hero it’s our hero and a lot of peoples... he serves as an example to encourage others adults to be part of the military which just means so much it’s an honor like that,” said Sister, Icela Peralta.

A Navy destroyer named for Peralta was commissioned in July.