Operation Iraqi Freedom, Fallen Heroes, Iraq War 03/19/03

Spc Jonathan J Santos

Jonathan J Santos

Whatcom, Washington

October 15, 2004

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
22 Army Spc

Army's 9th Psychological Operations Battalion, 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne) 

Fort Bragg, North Carolina

Died in Karabilah, Iraq, when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle.

Spc Jonathan J Santos Spc Jonathan J Santos Spc Jonathan J Santos

Spc Jonathan J Santos Spc Jonathan J Santos Spc Jonathan J Santos

Spc Jonathan J Santos www.IraqWarHeroes.org


For Some Memorial Service Snapshots, Click photo below:

October 25, 2004

Santos served as a psychological operations specialist on a three-man tactical PSYOP team. His unit deployed in September 2004 to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Prior to OIF, Santos deployed to Haiti in March 2004 in support of a U.S.-led, U.N.-authorized Multinational Interim Force.

He entered the Army in July 2001 and completed the Psychological Operations Specialist Course at Fort Bragg in 2002. He was assigned to the 9th PSYOP Bn. in May 2003.

Santos had also graduated the Modern Arabic Language Course at Fort Bragg in 2002.

His awards include the Purple Heart, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon and the Parachutist Badge.

He is survived by his mother, Doris Kent, of Bellingham, Wash., and his father, Les Santos, of Oshkosh, Wis.
A book worm, Jonathan Santos enlisted in the Army so his mother wouldn''t have to pay for college. "When he was in Iraq he gathered about 75 books, so somebody named him ''the librarian,''" said his mother, Doris Kent. Santos, 22, of Bellingham, Wash., died Oct. 15 from injuries suffered in an attack on his vehicle in Iraq. He was based at Fort Bragg. Santos enlisted in the Army''s Delayed Entry Program in 2000 and entered the service with a four-year commitment after graduating the following spring. He studied Arabic and became a linguist. As a high school wrestler, Kent was a hard worker who helped out his teammates and rose to any occasion, beating kids "he probably wasn''t supposed to beat," said his coach, Scott Schroyer. "Wrestling''s a sport where you''ve got to be emotionally tough and you''ve got to show courage and he did that," Schroyer said. Santos is also survived by his father, Leslie Santos.
Washington soldier killed in Iraq

Associated Press

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Spc. Jonathan Santos, 22, of Bellingham, has died from injuries suffered in an attack on his vehicle in Iraq, his mother said.

Santos, a linguist with the 9th Psychological Operations Battalion out of Fort Bragg, N.C., was injured Friday afternoon when an explosion hit his vehicle during combat operations, Doris Kent said.

He died less than four hours later. “He didn’t make it into the hospital,” Kent told The Bellingham Herald.

Maj. Paul Swiergosz, a Department of Defense spokesman, said the military could not provide details on service members killed in Iraq until 24 hours after a family member has been notified.

Santos left for his first tour of Iraq on Sept. 7 and celebrated his birthday there on Sept. 23, Kent said.

He had enlisted in the Army’s Delayed Entry Program in 2000 and entered the service with a four-year commitment after graduating the following spring.

“He didn’t want me to pay for college,” Kent said. “He said he wanted to do it on his own.”

She said he studied Arabic in the Army. He served in Haiti for about three months earlier this year, she said.

Kent said her son loved being with people and was an avid reader.

“When he was in Iraq he gathered about 75 books, so somebody named him ‘the librarian,”’ she said.

Sehome High School’s wrestling coach Scott Schroyer remembered Santos, a member of his team, as a quiet, solid, hardworking person who went out of his way to help his teammates and did whatever was asked of him.

“Wrestling’s a sport where you’ve got to be emotionally tough and you’ve got to show courage and he did that,” Schroyer said. “I remember one match in particular his senior year at the district tournament, he sort of rose up and upset a kid that he probably wasn’t supposed to beat.”

Santos’ two younger brothers attend Sehome High School and Fairhaven Middle School.

His father, Leslie Santos, serves in the military and is now stationed in Wisconsin, Kent said. The young man’s stepfather, Christopher Kent, and both his grandfathers were also in the military, Doris Kent said.

She had spoken with her son twice since he went to Iraq; the last time was two weekends ago.

Kent said an Army chaplain and another soldier knocked on the family’s door at 6 a.m. Saturday.

“You know what they came to say,” she said. “You don’t really want them to say anything. ... If they say it, it makes it real.”
Yet another Guam family's world was shattered this weekend with the news that a loved one was killed in Iraq.

Last night, a Mass was held for former Agat resident U.S. Army Spc. Jonathan Pangelinan Santos, who was killed in Karabilah, Iraq, on Friday -- just a month after he began his tour of duty there. Masses also will be said tonight, tomorrow and Friday at Our Lady of Guadalupe church in Santa Rita.

Santos, who turned 22 just a few weeks ago, was a linguist for the 9th Psychological Operations Battalion out of Fort Bragg, N.C. He was one of three people killed when their vehicle hit a land mine during combat, said his uncle, Agat resident Felix Pangelinan.

Word of Santos' death came just days after the news that another Guam son, former Agat resident Ferdinand Ibabao, 36, was killed in the Green Zone in Baghdad. Santos became the seventh person from the Micronesia region killed in Iraq in less than a year.

'Mother's intuition'

Pangelinan said news of Santos' death has devastated the family, especially Santos' mother, Doris P. Kent, who now lives in Bellingham, Wash.

"My sister called about 30 minutes after midnight Sunday morning and informed us," Pangelinan said in a voice laden with sorrow. "We're taking it pretty hard, but what can we do? Just pray for him."

"She's taking it really hard because she didn't want her son to go to Iraq. She really went off the handle when she found out he had to go there. She called me up crying, telling me he's been ordered to go to Iraq and she didn't want him to go," he said.

"She couldn't sleep or eat. It was just very hard for her to know that her son was in Iraq."

At first, Pangelinan said, he assumed his sister was so distraught because she knew it was a dangerous place.

"But now that this incident has happened, to me, it's like a mother's intuition," he said.

Santos spent most of his childhood moving place to place because his father was in the military, Pangelinan said. In 1992, the family returned to Guam and spent the next four years here before moving to the mainland.

Santos loved languages and in his last year of high school, he enlisted in the Army's Delayed Entry Program with hopes of studying Chinese, Kent told the Bellingham Herald. But because he scored so high, they instead moved him to the Arabic program, she said.

Santos has always been a devoted student who loved to read and learn, Pangelinan said.

"He was a scholar. ... He was a very conservative, quiet guy, kind of shy," he said, adding that he had a chance to get to know his nephew well when he was living on island. "When they lived on Guam, he was always over at my house because I have a son his age."

Pangelinan said he and two siblings are trying to pull together their resources to fly to Washington for the funeral, but in any case, there will be a Mass held for Santos on Guam the same day as his funeral.

Santos' father, Leslie Santos; stepfather, Christopher Kent; and both his grandfathers were in the military, and Leslie Santos is now stationed in Wisconsin, the Bellingham Herald reported. Pangelinan said Leslie Santos' family, though originally from Guam, mostly live in California now.

Doris Kent told the Bellingham Herald that she had spoken to her son twice since he went to Iraq.

Her family heard of the death when an Army chaplain and another soldier knocked on the family's door early morning Saturday.

"You know what they came to say," she was quoted as saying in the report. "You don't really want them to say anything. ... If they say it, it makes it real."


Masses of intention are being held at 6:30 p.m. tonight, tomorrow and Friday at Our Lady of Guadalupe church in Santa Rita. Another Mass will be held in Guam on the day of his funeral in Washington state. No funeral arrangements have been made yet.
Visitation held for late Bellingham soldier 
Mary Lane Gallagher, The Bellingham Herald

Family and friends of Army Cpl. Jonathan Santos gathered in Bellingham Sunday to spend a few quiet moments with the 22-year-old's flag-draped coffin before his burial today.

Funeral today 10/25/04

A funeral Mass for Santos will be celebrated today at Assumption Catholic Church at 10:30 a.m., followed by burial with full military honors at Bayview Cemetery.

Santos died Oct. 15, the first Whatcom County resident to be killed in action in the war in Iraq. He was a linguist with the 9th Psychological Operations Battalion, based in Fort Bragg, N.C.

Since his death, Santos' family has been deluged with hundreds of cards from well-wishers, said his mother, Doris Kent.

Many of the cards are from people the family had never met, she said.

"It's just the most comforting thing, that people are reaching out in ways that I hadn't experienced before," Kent said. "If there's going to be something wonderful that comes from Jonathan being killed, it's going to be that people reach inside themselves and be able to find the compassion we desperately need to show each other."

Among those who paid their respects Sunday were eight members of the Honor Guard from American Legion Post. No. 7.

"I told them, 'Cpl. Santos is honored,'" Kent said.

Three of Santos' Army friends from Fort Bragg also flew to Bellingham to say goodbye. They knelt on a bench next to the coffin and bowed their heads in the silent chapel.

To the rear of the chapel were dozens of pictures of Santos, hugging his mom on the day he graduated from Sehome High School, posing with a prom date, smiling in Army fatigues. Kent also asked well-wishers to write their favorite memories of her son to later include in a scrapbook.

At least one person Kent did not know came to the visitation. The woman pressed a rosary into Kent's hand, saying she knew Kent needed it.

"She was right," Kent said. "I left mine at home."
'You can't think about death.'
Boots inspire two mothers to make a soldier's death more than just a number
Friday, May 19, 2006

The woman threads a bracelet and a rosary through the laces of the boots -- standard-issue military. She ties and unties the laces with trembling fingers, trying to get the tops of the boots to stand at attention.

The tighter she ties, the straighter they stand.

She stares at them a long time, her shoulders hunched over as her slight body heaves up and down in rhythm to the sobs. One of her sons stands behind her and puts a hand on her shoulder.
The boots are unremarkable: black, midcalf, Army surplus, used -- somebody else's boots.

They look just like the other 1,546 pairs of boots at the Seattle Center's Fisher Pavilion. They're lined up and spaced in neat rows, like soldiers at parade rest. Some are adorned with flags and photographs, some with flowers.

But it's the pair with the rosary and the silver bracelet that will bring together two women who each found a new life amid so much death.

One woman, Patricia, is a mother, a family doctor, a documentary filmmaker and a Quaker. In two decades of practice, she has seen how passionately children are protected and nurtured into adulthood. She cannot understand why they are sent off to war to be killed.

The other, Doris, is a military wife and mother whose eldest son enlisted in the U.S. Army three months before Sept. 11, 2001, the day mother and son realized the world had become a dangerous place.

"Son, you be careful," the woman told him.

I've got to get this down

Army Cpl. Jonathan Santos had just seven months to serve when he was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in October 2004.

Medicine is Patricia Boiko's calling. Stories are in her blood -- true stories.
Six years ago, she began taking classes at the University of Washington to become certified in documentary filmmaking. It was a natural fit.

Patricia went to the exhibit at the Seattle Center with her camera. At the time -- a little more than two years after the war in Iraq started -- 1,546 U.S. soldiers had been killed.

Patricia found the boots that had been so carefully laced up with a silver rosary and metal bracelet.

Then she went on the Internet and found the name of the Washington state soldier memorialized by the Army-issue boots, Googling her way to his mother, Doris Kent.

A stubborn first-born

Doris Kent grew up on Guam, the daughter of a Navy man and sister of a Vietnam vet. She married Leslie Santos, an Army man, and raised three boys. She divorced the boys' father in 1995 and married Chris Kent in 1996.
Kent is also a retired Navy man. The couple met in Guam and moved to Bellingham in December 1996. They found a house in a quiet cul-de-sac with a clear view of the Canadian Rockies.

Doris had big dreams for the boys. As the only one of 10 children who went to college, she made it clear to her sons that they would go to college. But her first-born was stubborn.

He signed up for delayed entry into the Army.

"His junior year, a recruiter got hold of him, and he said, 'Mom, I'm going to earn my own college money.' I said, 'No. I'm going to pay for it.' We argued about it for three months."

He won. "He wasn't asking my permission to get into the military," said Doris. "He wanted my support."

Doris Kent, 45, has a streak of Martha Stewart. She keeps an immaculate house, loves to decorate and is an avid scrap-booker. Born into the military, she is a lifelong ID card holder, thanks to the active duty service members in her family.

"They're the ones that took the oath," Doris said. "We're the ones that took the life."

Until recently, she worked as a health educator in Prevention and Wellness Services at Western Washington University.

And until Oct. 15, 2004, her life was intact.

'Heard the heart breaking'

On Oct. 16, 2004, Jared Santos woke to the screams and cries of his mother, Doris Kent. His first thought: Mom has fallen down the stairs.

The 14-year-old ran down the hall to see what had happened.

His stepfather, Chris Kent, stopped him and ushered him back to his room. While he waited, Jared thought about his big brother: OK, he might be captured by insurgents or wounded. He's my brother. He isn't dead.

His stepdad came back for him a few minutes later.

Jared saw his mom crying in the living room. Two soldiers sat on the couch.

"I want you to tell them what you told me! I want them to hear it too!" Doris said, as Jared stood close by.

He'd never heard his mother scream like that.

"That was from the core of my heart, and what he heard was my heart being ripped out of my body. He heard the heart breaking," Doris said.

One of the strangers in uniform spoke up. "Corporal Jonathan Santos was killed in action yesterday while serving in Iraq."

Jared sat there with his head down. He let the tears stream down his face. I won't see you for the longest time, he thought, not until I am dead.

Doris had followed the daily death toll numbers from Iraq. Her son was now No. 1,096. "I thought, 'Oh no! They won't remember him. They'll just remember the numbers.' "

'Mom, I don't get it'

Before he was killed in Karabilah, Iraq, Jonathan Santos was a son, a brother, a friend, an athlete and a soldier.

At Sehome High School in Bellingham, he played football and wrestled. He owned every book Stephen King ever wrote, but he also loved Calvin & Hobbes. He loved fireworks and fast cars. His dark blue 2002 Toyota Celica GT still sits in the Kents' driveway.
Born at Fort Knox, Ky., on Sept. 23, 1982, he was old enough to know firsthand the nomadic life of a military family.

Jonathan never thought of the military as a place where he could get killed. Sure, one of his uncles had died from exposure to Agent Orange, but his dad, Leslie Santos, had enlisted and served during peacetime.

Jonathan's plan: serve four years and earn enough money to go to college in Southern California, where he'd join his best friend from high school. Then Sept. 11 happened.

Jonathan had scored high on the Army's language aptitude test and wanted to learn Chinese. Instead, the Army chose Arabic for him. He became a linguist with the 9th Psychological Operations Battalion.

He was stationed first in Haiti, in March 2004. That's where he received his orders to go to Iraq. "He told me, 'Mom, I don't get it. They're taking us and making us leave a country that desperately needs us and wants us and sending us to a country that desperately wants to kill us.' After I hung up with him, all I could do was cry," Doris said.

When her son went to Iraq, he had only seven months left to serve. He was a good soldier, but he looked forward to getting out. Two weeks before his death, he wrote in his daily journal: "Today is my 22nd birthday. Great. I guess I'll throw a kick-ass kegger. I'll have a keg of Killians and one of Yuengling."What a bangin party, right? Well it aint gonna happen because I'm in Iraq. But I make this vow here and now. This is the last ... THE LAST BIRTHDAY THE ARMY WILL STEAL FROM ME!"

'Grim Reaper'

Doris Kent didn't find her son's journal until his tough box -- a soldier's chest of his most valuable items that returns to families after their death -- came back. When he was home on leave, he never mentioned his fears or doubts. She found out about them in the diary.

"He didn't talk down about anything," she said. "He talked about his future. It's all you can do. You can't think about death. You just can't."

Doris also found something else in the tough box -- videocassettes. Her son bought a video camera just before he left for Iraq and had taped everything.

Doris sat down and watched them by herself, pausing when she cried too hard. There's Jon talking and laughing with his friends and family. There's his cousin's wedding he attended while he was home. There are his brothers at Six Flags. Those are his Army buddies. Oh, and that's his dog Roxy in North Carolina. He loved that dog.

One of the last videos Jonathan made shows him making what he called his "Grim Reaper" -- a lucky charm of a skeletal scythe-bearer made from electrical tape. He kept it in his Humvee.

It was hanging from the roof as he and his two-man team made their way back from a mission on the Syrian border. A Marine journalist and an Iraqi translator accompanied them. All five men were in the third vehicle in a convoy of three. A car that had pulled off to the side of the road revved up and rammed into them.

The Humvee exploded. Jonathan was thrown from the vehicle. Only one person survived. Jonathan died in a Blackhawk helicopter en route to the hospital.

Two lives

Weeks after shooting the "Eyes Wide Open" exhibit at The Seattle Center, Patricia e-mailed Doris for permission to use the footage of the Army-issue boots laced up with a rosary and bracelet.

Within the hour, Doris called her. "Of course," Doris told her. "But I'd really like to tell you my story, and Jonathan's story."

The two met in Bellingham, about seven months after the explosion that took Jonathan's life.

"At the time I was still so raw, still enmeshed in unbelievable grief," Doris said. "She was so gentle and kind with me, so generous. She reached out to me without knowing me."

Their two worlds were about to change. A mother found her voice. And a physician found another way of healing -- as a filmmaker.

The documentary Patricia made is only eight minutes -- the first of a three-part work in progress. Part one is called "The Corporal's Boots," which will screen Sunday at the Northwest Film Forum.

It begins with the fresh recruit saying "Hi" to his mom in his green camos. Then it fades to soldiers marching. In the next scene, the words of the Quaker who stood up at the April meeting are overlaid on images of the exhibit -- first one boot, then another and another until they fill the screen. There are more boots than people walking around them.

Patricia and filmmaker Laurel Spellman Smith are now editing the second in the series, "The Corporal's Diary," which focuses on Jonathan's videos and diary excerpts, read by his brother Jared.

The final segment will be "The Corporal's Memory," which follows Doris as she meets the mother of the one surviving member of Jonathan's team.

Jared Santos, younger brother of Cpl. Jonathan Santos, holds his brother's diary. Jared reads from it in the second part of the series, "The Corporal's Diary." Photo Meryl Schenker/P-I

For Patricia, the filming has been difficult, psychologically and emotionally. She has a son who is about the same age Jonathan was when he died.
"I was able to keep it together to interview Doris. But editing Doris and watching Jonathan's tapes, I couldn't do it at first for more than an hour or two," Patricia said. "Also, I would become very angry. No one seemed to care about the war. They forget there's a war going on."

Some mothers of fallen soldiers who have seen the film view it as anti-war. Some see it as a memorial to the cost of war. She supports any way a mother needs to grieve and deal with her son or daughter's death in this war.

"Nobody could tell us how to hurt, how to miss them," she said. "You do whatever you have to do to get through this."

What Doris did was find a mission in her mourning.

Once the military mom hesitated to speak out against the war. She no longer holds her tongue -- even though at times she wonders if she's doing the right thing.

"I know the sacrifices that we as military families make in supporting a family member who is active duty. It's a political decision to send them to war. But it's a patriotic decision to serve in the military.

"Unfortunately, serving in the military right now is serving a political agenda, and my son was killed for that."

Jonathan Santos' gravesite at Bayview Cemetery is about five minutes from his family home.

There are two headstones for Jonathan in the veteran's portion of the cemetery.

One, from the Army, is flush with the ground. It shows he earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. The other is upright and made of marble. It shows a sketch of a soldier at attention.

Doris visits at least three days a week, wiping the markers free of dust and grass, firming up the flags that line the small plot of grass behind the stones and decorating the site on holidays.

Her mantel at home also memorializes Jonathan. On it is an assembly of photos that show how the boy became the young man, the young man the soldier in the black boots.

She found them in his tough box. They're small boots: size 7 1/2. Jonathan was compact: 5-foot-7, about 160 pounds, mostly muscle.

Years of pulling the laces tight have made the tongues soft as butter. The heels are worn, the rounded toes scuffed.

On May 8, Doris carefully packed the boots in a carry-on suitcase, along with Jonathan's dog tags.

She headed to Washington, D.C., for the Mother's Day March, and the last day of the "Eyes Wide Open" exhibit in the capital's National Mall.

On May 13, the day of the march, she rode the escalator up into the Mall, carrying the boots in a shopping bag.

There were now 2,439 pairs of boots. A thousand more soldiers gone since she first saw the exhibit in Seattle.

Doris took out Jonathan's dog tags and put them around her neck, then walked to the rows of boots honoring Washington state's soldiers. She found the used black boots with her son's name on them.

She bent down, unlaced the boots, and painstakingly transferred her son's rosary and bracelet to the boots he'd first worn in basic training.

Doris tied the boots so tight they stood straight up. It looked as if her son was standing in them.

"Now I know Jonathan will be traveling with this exhibit," she said.

"First it was a pair of boots with his name on it, now it's Jonathan's boots -- not somebody else's boots, but his boots."


Excerpts from the daily diary entries of Army Cpl. Jonathan Santos in Iraq:

Sept. 13, 2004

It was smooth sailing to Al Qaim after that. We downloaded our gear once here. Our new pad is awesome. It's air conditioned and we all have beds. Before we came here, people were saying we have the worst living conditions. But I'd say this place is pretty sweet.

Sept. 18, 2004

Today there was a big Iraqi Police meeting at the IP training grounds. SPC (P) and I stayed outside and guarded the perimeter. The sun was blazin hot. Especially up in the turret in my Kevlar body armor, long sleeve and my dust mask insulating around my neck.

I also got these new shoulder guards that attach to the body armor. They're good for cutting off the circulation to my arms.

Sept. 28, 2004

I got mail from my youngest bro, Justin and my Mom. ... I watched some video footage I took of my friends (T) and Justin. They were talking about how they want me to return safely from Iraq. And I promised them I would. I never lie.

But is sure is dangerous here what with the rockets, mortars, IEDs and sniper attacks. I wanted to be an ATL and now that I am one, I'm up in the turret exposed to all of the hazards Iraqi insurgents put out there. Be careful what you wish for. You just may get it. I made the Angel of Death.

Sept. 29, 2004

A couple of days ago a marine killed himself and today I talked to one of the guys that cleaned up part of the mess. The guy who committed suicide shot himself in the head, and his buddies had to clean it up. That's (expletive) up.

Oct. 11, 2004

It's Columbus Day. Wonderful. So we honored this holiday by taking the day off. Good for us. I think we're going to honor it again tomorrow with another day off. Why? Because there isn't (expletive) for us to do here in Iraq.

But I'm alright with that. Sometimes I feel that way because I'm lazy. Other times I just want to live to see another day. I don't want to become just some picture on the wall to my younger brothers. I want to live ... like Quato lives.

Oct. 14, 2004

I once again enjoyed the splendors of Driver 3. I am an ace at that game. Missions have been on hold lately because Crypto (aka communications) was compromised. Some unit lost a radio when they hit a mine. The new fill comes out tomorrow, so we'll be going out.

Santos was killed the next day.

... Santos, who had been in Iraq for only five weeks before he was killed, left behind daily written entries and a video diary from Iraq. Boiko and filmmaker Laurel Spellman Smith are turning his words and footage into "The Corporal's Diary," the second piece of "The Corporal" trilogy. The final film will be called "The Corporal's Memory."

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