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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Late Marine’s whole family will be here for funeral

U.S. Marine Corporal Dave Michael Santos poses with his mother, Charito Maliksi-Runge, at her wedding in this file photo. (Contributed Photo) - US Department of Defense confirms Santos’ death
- Santos’ recruiter: Justice will be served

When the late U.S. Marine Corporal Dave Michael Santos is laid to rest on Rota next week, his whole family will be there.

His biological mother, Charito Maliksi-Runge, will be flying from Newark, Delaware to Rota later this week ahead of the arrival of the remains of her beloved son.

“Dave’s whole family is mourning. My Dave’s life was good. …Dave Michael was an honorable man, son, father, husband and friend. He’s a very generous man. Even if he had one dime left, he would give it to friends who need it more. That’s how he was… He cannot hurt a fly,” his mother told Saipan Tribune in a long-distance phone interview yesterday afternoon.

Santos was allegedly stabbed and killed by a fellow Marine around 2am Friday in Marjeh, Helmand Province in Afghanistan, where he was deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

The U.S. Department of Defense confirmed Santos’ death, adding that “this incident is under investigation.”

“The Department of Defense announced today [July 19] the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Cpl. Dave M. Santos, 21, of Rota, Marianas Islands of the Pacific, died July 16 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan,” the department statement said.

‘Last time we saw him’

Days before his redeployment to Afghanistan, Santos visited his mother in Newark, Delaware.

“I’m glad Dave spent the last few days of his life with us, that we saw him before his redeployment. …Dave Michael’s brothers and sisters here miss him. …We love Dave Michael so much,” she added.

“But as they say, God needs soldiers in Heaven. I’m so grateful God trusted me to raise Dave Michael and to have a great son like him. I know he’s in Heaven now and I have an angel up there,” she said.

Maliksi-Runge, who is from Bacoor, Cavite in the Philippines, now lives in Delaware. She gave birth to Santos on Rota on May 17, 1989.

She brought her son while he was still a baby to the Philippines where he grew up.

Maliksi-Runge’s sister, Mayette Maliksi, said she helped raise Santos in the Philippines until he was 9 years old, when he went back to Rota to be with his father and studied high school there. Santos would visit his family wherever they were—whether on Rota or in the U.S. mainland.

“It’s devastating for my sister to know what happened to her son. It’s devastating for the whole family. But who are we to question God? We just want Dave Michael to be at peace. He was a loving child,” said his aunt, who is a special education teacher at Cha-Cha Ocean View Junior High School on Saipan.

When Maliksi-Runge flies to Rota later this week, she will be bringing with her Dave Michael Santos’ two stepbrothers and stepsisters aged 1 to 16 years old.

On Rota, they will be joined by Santos’ biological father, David M. Santos, his adoptive mother Bella Maratita, two stepsisters and a stepbrother aged 10 to 19.

His father described him as a “wonderful son” and “loved by many.”

The father said preliminary information relayed to them was that Dave Michael Santos was allegedly stabbed by a fellow Marine on the left side of his neck. He was pronounced dead some two hours later. He last visited Rota in April 2009, and that’s the last time his biological father saw him alive.

‘Justice will be served’

U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Eric Arriaga told Saipan Tribune yesterday that, as Santos’ recruiter, it saddens him “to know that such an incident occurred amongst our own.”

“Rest assured that the individual responsible will be dealt with and justice will be served. I hope that this incident can be viewed as a tragedy and not as frequent occurrence in the military. I will always have a special place in my heart for the CNMI,” said Arriaga in an e-mail.

In a separate phone interview, Arriaga said he was on Rota in 2007 and Santos was one of those recruited to the Marine Corps. Arriaga is currently stationed in Okinawa, Japan.

Santos’ family, friends and relatives are not alone in their quest for the truth and justice. Lt. Gov. Eloy S. Inos and Senate President Paul A. Manglona (R-Rota) said the CNMI government also wants the U.S. military to conduct a full investigation into Santos’ death.

The Santos family and the CNMI community are still in disbelief that Santos will be murdered by a fellow Marine. They hope that the truth will come out soon and that justice will prevail.

The late Marine Cpl. Dave Michael Santos also left behind a wife, Lotty Ann Atalig Santos of Rota, and their 3-year-old son, Anthony David A. Santos, both now living in the U.S. mainland. They are also expected to return to Rota for Santos’ funeral.

Right after graduating from Rota High School in 2007, Dave Michael underwent a U.S. Marine Corps basic training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and an Advanced Individual Training at Camp Pendleton, California, his father said. He said his first deployment to Afghanistan was in 2008 to 2009. He got redeployed to Afghanistan only about a month ago, the father added.

Rep. Teresita A. Santos (Ind-Rota) said her nephew is “not the type who would provoke anyone to a fight,” and that he’s “very respectful.”

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