Jamaica, New York, US
U.S. Marine Corps
LCPL, K Co, 3rd Bn, 4th Marines, 3rd Mardiv
3/28/1968, Cam Lo, Vietnam
Vinny Santaniello was born on September 20, 1948 and raised in Jamaica, Queens (New York). His parents, Carmine and Rose Santaniello, had three children, with Vinny being the middle child between his older sister, Lillian, and his younger brother, also named Carmine. Vinny’s beloved father was a WWII Navy veteran and that service inspired Vinny to enlist with the U.S. Marine Corp. during the turbulent late 1960’s. Ultimately, Vinny was stationed in Vietnam in October 1967 and served as the Company driver for Kilo 3/4 until March 28, 1968, when he was killed in action at the tender age of 19 in Cam Lo, in the shadow of the DMZ.
Vinny, known to his beloved Marine Corp. brothers as “Saint,” was a kind-hearted young man that was known to be a fun-loving practical joker, and more importantly, a loyal Marine that served his brother Marines, and his country, with tireless courage and valor. His untimely death occurred six months before he was to serve as the best man in his sister, Lilly’s wedding, and it left a tremendous void in the lives of his friends and family back home in Jamaica, New York.
The question, “Why did Vinny have to die?” reverberated often in the hearts and minds of those that he left behind, and it continued to echo in the hearts of loved ones that never had an opportunity to meet him, as he died before they were born. However, this profound question finally was answered 46 years after Vinny’s death, when his family learned of Michael Reagan and the Fallen Heroes Project.
Michael advised Vinny’s family that he held the mortally wounded Marine in his arms immediately after the Vietcong launched a surprise mortar attack on their platoon in Cam Lo during the morning of March 28, 1968. Vinny’s melancholy, piercing blue eyes peered directly into Michael’s eyes as he uttered his final words, “Mike, I just want to go home,” before he died in Michael’s arms. This divine encounter between two brave brother Marines served as the inspiration for Michael’s eventual creation of the Fallen Heroes Project.
The answer to the question of why Vinny had to die is surpassingly inspirational and spiritual: his death served as a beacon of hope for Michael Reagan as he embarked upon his selfless mission of love and hope. Indeed, decades later, Michael began to present portraits of Fallen Heroes to thousands of grieving families across our great nation, and across the world. Miraculously, these portraits have provided a sense of peace, dignity, honor, respect, purpose, and closure to families in the wake of the tremendous loss of their Fallen Heroes: courageous men and women that laid down their lives in the name of our continued freedom. In death, LCPL Vincent B. Santaniello inspired Michael Reagan to fulfill his life’s destiny – while simultaneously furthering Vinny’s incredible legacy – by returning thousands of Fallen Heroes home to their grateful loved ones.
On April 19, 2014, Michael presented Vinny Santaniello’s family with the portrait that you see on this page. This wonderful portrait allowed Michael to finally grant Vinny’s dying wish to go home. Vinny’s portrait also brought Michael a sense of tranquility because it embodied the very purpose of the Fallen Heroes Project: thousands of Vinny’s fallen brothers and sisters in arms are permitted to return home to their loved ones thanks to the eternally faithful bond of Marine brotherhood, loyalty, commitment, love, and respect between Vincent B. Santaniello and Michael Reagan.
The eternally linked legacies of Vinny Santaniello, Michael Reagan, and the Fallen Heroes Project shall persevere forever for countless generations of thousands of families across America, and beyond, by virtue of these powerful, loving portraits. Semper Fi!