Three military heroes were honored in San Diego with a major gesture -- having three military destroyers named after them. NBC 7's Steven Luke reports.
Three military heroes were honored in San Diego Friday with a major gesture -- having three military destroyers named after them.
A special ceremony with the service members’ families and friends was held on Naval Base San Diego.
The ships, which have yet to be built, will carry the legacies of three men from three different conflicts into oceans around the world for decades to come.
The destroyers will be named USS John Finn, USS Rafael Peralta and USS Ralph Johnson.
“These three men are examples of the service, sacrifice, dedication and the heroism it took to be that anchor,” said USMC Lt. General John Toolan.
Lt. General Toolan, commander of the first marine expeditionary force, spoke during Friday’s naming ceremony.
Family members of John Finn took the stage for a picture. Among those in attendance was Finn’s son, Joe, who said his father would’ve thought it all a little much, but would’ve been very proud.
Finn, who lived on an East County ranch, died three years ago.
He was a Pearl Harbor legend who jumped behind a machine gun and stood his ground under enemy fire even after being hit by shrapnel all over his body.
The heroic act earned him the first Medal of Honor from World War II.
“He seemed to have a knack to be at the right place at the right time, and do the thing,” said Joe Finn, fondly remembering his dad. “He could wander off into nothing and come back with a great story and a great tale.”
The family of Rafael Peralta called Friday’s ship-naming ceremony a proud and emotional moment.
Peralta jumped on a grenade to save his fellow marines, an act many believe is worthy of the Medal of Honor.
Peralta's mother, siblings and extended family told NBC 7 San Diego they’re still holding out hope that he’ll be awarded that Medal of Honor – something that was recently denied because a previous Defense Secretary cited forensic evidence that Peralta was not conscious when he did that.
USMC LCPL Ricardo Peralta was 14 at the time of his brother, Rafael’s, death. Ricardo said he was inspired to join the service because of his older brother.
He isn’t alone.
"I've heard going through boot camp, people coming up to me and telling me they enlisted in the Marine Corps simply because they heard my brother's story," said Ricardo. “He started becoming less of a brother figure and more of an icon. He’s a legend in the Marine Corps.”
The third military ship to be named after a hero is USS Ralph Johnson, named after a former Camp Pendleton marine who threw himself on an explosive device in Vietnam – an act for which he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
The destroyers, costing roughly $1 billion each, will be built and commissioned in the next several years.
It's not yet known if they'll be home-ported here in San Diego, but one thing is for sure: They'll all carry the names of memorable, heroic San Diegans around the world.