My Father's last words to me, as I was moving away with my wife and child to another land, are still preserved on video. Even though I remember what he said, nothing he said ever had a more powerful and lasting impact than when he talked to me about two things. Those were: his childhood . . . and his escape from economic bondage.
I think now there is a reason why these topics are so prominent whenever I recall having so many conversations with him. I feel like he always emphasized those topics in order to give his sons a way to express what he could not in his 80 years on this planet.
Every American here today is witness to his legacy. Those of you who knew him well know that he was a man of action, instead of words.
His years of Naval training always made you feel a sense of urgency when you were in his presence. There was always a project to compete. There was always a goal to be met. There is always a mission to accomplish, and thanks to Our Savior's death and resurrection, there is always someplace to rest.
In many ways, my Dad's restlessness was a constant reminder to me about a youth spent shining shoes in the streets of Manila, only to come home late at night, finding nothing to eat, except a small bowl of rice that his sister Lydia had saved for him. Now, hopefully, he will be able to see her again, and thank her for her gentle kindness.
We are gathered here today not because he died. We are gathered here today because he lived his life with robust energy and a disciplined drive.
Outsiders only knew him as "Commander," but those of us who have reaped benefits from his courage and compassion need to remember a young naive Filipino sailor in 1952, who could not afford an education.
We are here today because a young boy in the Philippines dreamed of giving his children the gift of Liberty to use their God-given talents to build their own lives, to feed their own families, and to live without the psychological shackles of poverty, free from the petty obligation and self-serving oligarchies that are the remnants of his childhood.
I do not need to list for you his long career resume, or recite his academic curriculum, or mention his business acumen. There is no need to boast about the success he achieved in his favorite arena, his life AFTER the Navy, on the golf course, although I'm sure he would have wanted me to tell you that twice he made a hole-in-one.
I am speaking to you today to help fill the final orders from Lieutenant Commander Ross T. Santonil, a United States Naval Officer, whose life, in my view, gave meaning to the term "Service." His identity as a man was not circumscribed by national origin, or his military rank, or by religious preference, or even barrio affiliation; far from it. I know because I grew up in his house, and I saw how time after time, people came to him, and so many lives were affected in a positive way because he would not refuse them. I saw how he worked so hard to serve his family and adopted country. Now that I have a family of my own, he has become more to me than just a Dad. He is my hero.
The last command from Commander Santonil came to me in one of our man Father-Son chats. He told me, Son, when I die, I want everyone to have a fiesta. Celebrate; and feed everyone.
Those were his final orders.
Before I'm done, I want to share a few words about the nuclear family he is leaving behind. To my Ma I think you already know this, but you were the true object of Pa's desire. You were the apple of his eye, and the source of all his passion and energy. Whatever brought you and Pa together, it is the sustaining power of your Love for each other that inspires me in my own marriage. To my sweet sister, Penelia, the good soldier, what can I say that we have not already shared, and that we never would tell our parents! To our little brother, Ross, who could not be here today, thanks for showing us that some things in life are private, and for proving that it was you who learned the most from Pa about how to live free of the past. And to his granddaughter, Tori Tam, my little mochi, you will always carry Lolo's spirit with you, anytime you look towards heaven.
To all the Santonils and Barins here today, and all our dear friends and close associates, we are humbled by your presence, and we are hopeful that my Dad was someone you could think kindly upon, and remember in your hearts that his life's aim, purpose, and pleasure, was Service . . . to his family, this country, and God.
I know I speak for all of us today when I say we deeply appreciate your kind gestures and prayers as we let go of a man . . . a brother . . . a cousin . . . a husband . . . an in-law . . . a friend . . . a father . . . a grandfather . . . and whatever may come, he will live in our hearts, finally, as our Fallen Hero.