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Daniel J Santee


U.S. Marines


AR RAMADI, IRAQ 04/14/2007

Santa Ana Fire Department inspector Kristie Hiatt called Daniel J. Santee by the nickname Jiminy Cricket because he was so full of energy and always asking what else he could do. He always had an infectious smile, and his eyes were always twinkling. He had so much energy – he wore me out, Hiatt said.

Santee, 21, of Mission Viejo, Calif., was killed April 14 in a vehicle accident in Anbar province. He was assigned to Camp Lejeune.

He was a goodhearted kid, full of life, said his brother Nathan. When everyone else hesitated to do something, Danny would be the first one to try it. He didn’t see death, he saw life in risks. Danny built up a legacy in 21 years that most of us could not do in 80 years, said Pastor Tom Gastil.

Growing up, Santee was known as a climber – scaling the side of his crib or utility poles. He was a high energy kid, always thinking outside of the box, said Tony Yannizzi of the Costa Mesa Police Department.

Daniel J. Santee decided to join the Marines after attending the funeral of a family friend killed two years ago by a sniper in Iraq. The friend, Jeffrey Starr, had long been an inspiration to Santee.

“They were like-minded spirits,” said Santee’s mom, Cathy. “He wanted to take over where Jeff left off. Everyone asked him to wait, and he did, but nothing would deter him. His heart was set.”

The 21-year-old lance corporal died April 14 almost in same location as his friend Starr in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, his mother said.

He was atop a Humvee turret, guarding a convoy of fellow Marines, when the vehicle swerved to miss a pothole, tipped over and crushed him, his mother said.

Santee, who grew up in Mission Viejo and enlisted 10 months ago, had been Iraq fewer than seven weeks. He was assigned to the Combat Logistics Regiment 27, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Before enlisting, Santee dreamed of becoming a firefighter. He took fire science courses at Santa Ana College and interned with Costa Mesa’s Fire Department. His father had been a Costa Mesa police officer.

“He was a boy completely full of life,” his mother said. “I have never seen him not have a positive attitude about everything, including his chance of dying in Iraq. He knew that. He was prepared for that. He loved being a Marine. He told me, ‘Mom, this is what I was born to do.’ ”

In addition to his mother, Santee is survived by his father, Burton; his brother, Nathan, 24; and his sister, Laura, 22. He also is survived by his parents, Burton and Catherine.


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