Sunday, July 18, 2010

Army Sgt. Anibal Santiago

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Anibal Santiago, 37, of Belvidere, Ill.

Sgt. Santiago was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Fort Benning, Ga.; died July 18, 2010 in Bagram, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained July 17, 2010 in a non-combat-related incident in Khowst, Afghanistan.

BELVIDERE (WREX) - The young son of a Belvidere soldier, recently killed in Afghanistan, talks about the dad he'll never see again. Sgt. Anibal Santiago died this weekend after falling from a high altitude during combat operations in Khowst Province.

He talked to his 11-year-old son Hannibal just two days before the accident.

"Before he hung up he said that he loved me and that he was proud of me and he told me never to forget that," Hannibal remembers through tears. "And I told him, 'I love you. I'm proud of you, and you'll always be my hero.'"

Sgt. Anibal Santiago was a U.S. Army Ranger and a former sailor. He was on his third deployment, having served in Iraq and once before in Afghanistan. Santiago also worked as a Rockford police officer before enlisting in the Navy in 2001.

"He was a strong character person," says his ex-wife, Inez Cardona Santiago. But despite that strength, she says he had a soft spot--a kindheartedness you can see in these family pictures.

"He taught me how to swim. He taught me how to ride bikes. He taught me a lot of things that I will always cherish," Hannibal adds.

Santiago was just 37, stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. He leaves behind a wife there. His parents live in Belvidere. Inez calls the phone call she got about his death "a nightmare."

"I couldn't believe a person so young was taken from us and from his parents and everybody that loves him," she responds.

"I'm holding in there. I'm supporting my grandpa and grandma a lot more. I'm trying to be strong for them," Hannibal says softly. "I know the things that he taught me will help me through the times that are tough, and he will be there with me in my heart."

Sgt. Santiago's parents and wife have not been able to speak about their son's/husband's death.

Fort Benning Georgia:

A Fort Benning Ranger died over the weekend from wounds received during combat, the U.S. Department of Defense said.

Sgt. Anibal Santiago, 37, of Belvidere, Ill., was hurt on Saturday when he fell from a high altitude over mountains in Khowst Province, Afghanistan. He died on Sunday from those injuries, the defense department said.

Santiago was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

“I wish the American public had an opportunity to know Sgt. Santiago,” said Col. Michael E. Kurilla, commander with the 75th Ranger Regiment, in a release. “He embodied the Ranger ethos — an American patriot, incredibly lethal sniper and was always at his best when conditions were the worst. He is a hero to our nation, the 75th Ranger Regiment, and his family.”

“Sgt. Santiago was a rock of a man that everyone – his fellow Rangers and his Family – relied on in the toughest of times," said Col. Dan Walrath, commander, 3rd Bn., 75th Ranger Regiment. " He was an incredible servant to the Nation as a policeman, Navy Sailor and Army Ranger. We are eternally grateful for what he gave us all in life.”

Santiago was on third deployment. Previously, he had been deployed once to Iraq and once to Afghanistan, the defense department said.

Santiago served as a police officer in Chicago before enlisting with the Navy as a Sailor in October 2001. He joined the Army in October 2007.

After completing the One Station Unit Training, he was assigned to the 75th Ranger Regiment and served as a sniper and sniper team leader.

“Sgt. Santiago was a rock of a man that everyone — his fellow Rangers and his family — relied on in the toughest of times,” said Col. Dan Walrath, commander with the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. “He was an incredible servant to the nation as a policeman, Navy Sailor and Army Ranger. We are eternally grateful for what he gave us all in life.”

Santiago completed military courses in the Army including Combatives Level One, the Combat Life Savers Course, the Sniper Course, the Airborne Course, the Ranger Indoctrination Program and the U.S. Army Ranger Course.

Santiago’s awards and decorations include the Ranger Tab, the Combat Infantryman Badge and the Parachutist Badge. He also was awarded the the Army Commendation Medal, the Navy Unit Commendation Medal, the Navy Good Conduct Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, The South West Asia Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, the Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star and the Army Service Ribbon.

Sgt. Anibal Santiago was recommended posthumously for the Bronze Star Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal.

Sgt. Santiago is survived by his wife Mandy; x-wife and son Inez Cardona Santiago and 11 year old Hannibal; and parents Anibal and Maria Santiago

Army Sgt. Anibal Santiago died in a non-combat related accident on 7/18/10.

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