Posted by Lex, on August 8, 2006
Some of you may have heard the story of young Diego Santiago. The son of Chief Hospital Corpsman (Fleet Marine Force / Aviation Warfare) Jesus “Chico” Santiago, his fondest dream was to be just like his dad – to follow his father footsteps into the naval ranks, and someday, hopefully, earn the respected title of “Chief.” Earn the honor of being a member of the Chief’s Mess.
But Diego grew ill – very ill – and his dream looked increasingly like an impossibility.
Chief Santiago’s brothers and sisters in the CPO mess heard of Diego’s illness, and did something I have never heard of before or since: They made Diego an honorary chief petty officer, initiated him into the mess. The pinning ceremony was approved by the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy himself.
He was six years old when he got pinned just a few months ago. He was very pleased, and his pleasure made all of us, even those of us who did not know him, very proud. Proud to be part of an organization which could make such an impression upon such a young man. Proud to be a part of an organization that could have such leaders and fathers that a young man would want to emulate, men like HMC (FMF/AW) Chico Santiago. Proud to be a part of an organization that, no matter how big, charged with matters of whatever great import, could still find a way to set aside the comfortable crutches of bureaucratic orthodoxy and do the right thing for a very sick little boy.
So I read this note with sorrow, passed down through the service pipe:
It is with great regret and sadness that I tell you Diego passed away last night. Diego was originally only given a few weeks to live when initially diagnosed with cancer but he fought a hard fight for 14 months, but his little body couldn’t hold out any longer. He was a tough little man and did want to be just like his father and actually seemed to be a great mini version of Chico. Chico and I were Second Classes together at FMSS (as Instructors) and Transitioned to Chief Petty Officer together. I’ve been following Diego’s progress and fight since the beginning, the family is of course devastated with this great loss of their son and brother, but relieved that he is no longer in pain. This is truly a sad day for the Santiago Family and those they hold dear.
Prayers for his soul then, that God may hold him close, and prayers for his family’s healing.
Rest in peace, young chief. We still have the watch.