At this time of year, we celebrate both our nation’s founding and those who gave “the last full measure of devotion” for it. But few monuments honor those whose military service leaves them disabled for life. Only in 2014 did the first U.S. memorial to permanently disabled veterans open.
One veteran who gave that last, full measure for his country is Wilcox High School graduate, medically retired Marine Corporal Rick Peralta.
A Santa Clara native, Rick graduated from Wilcox High School in 1984. Later, he joined the Marines and served in both Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He hoped to become a police officer following his service.
Rick was a high school athlete and played baseball and football.
“But most important, everyone loved him,” said his brother Don Peralta. “He’s an awesome guy — if you know him you love him.”
In 1991, Rick’s Humvee had a collision that left him with catastrophic brain and spine injuries. After time at an American military hospital in Ramstein, Germany, he returned to California and was medically retired. But he remained in a coma for six months.
Life would never be the same. The accident left him paralyzed on one side, unable to walk and nearly blind.
Rick now lives at the Veterans Affairs Community Living Center in Menlo Park, where, Don reports, “He is getting great care.”
Although their parents have died, Rick’s family remains close.
“He has two nieces and nephews that love him dearly and visit regularly,” said Don.
It’s a testimony to Rick’s engaging personality that even people who didn’t know him before the accident have become fast friends.
One is Santa Claran Gary Bondaug, another retired Marine. Bondaug felt a bond with Rick the first time he met him 30 years ago and has spent time with Rick regularly since then.
“Rick and I were two guys who grew up in the same town, attended the same high school,” said Bondaug. “We both joined the Marines about the same time. Our connection came through our sense of duty and country. Thirty years later we still take care of him because Marines take care of each other.”
Despite profound limitations, Rick enjoys life. He still likes to play blackjack.
“He’s very good at it,” said Don.
And Rick still enjoys sports. He’s a “huge” fan of the San Francisco 49ers and Giants.
“I asked him who he thought might make starting quarterback,” said Bondaug, “and he thought Sam Darnold had a great shot over Brock Purdy and Trey Lance.
“Rick has many friends from high school,” added Bondaug. “How many know that he’s still right here? I hope this story lets them know he’s close by, and they’ll take a ride to Menlo Park for a visit.”
Founded in 1937, the Marine Corps League comprehensively supports Marines and their families. MCL Post #1122 meets at American Legion Post #419 at 958 Homestead Road in Santa Clara. For information visit www.mcl1122.org, or email email@example.com.