Getting to know 19-year-old Marine Vincent Benore “Saint” Santaniello, who died in Vietnam in March 1968, took a series of events for the nephew that Vinnie never knew: New York native, Ralph Vincent Morales.
First, the July 2002 death of Ralph’s mother and Vinnie’s older sister and best friend, led him to find dozens of letters that Vinnie had written to Lilly during his tour in Vietnam in 1967-68. Then, he underwent years of research to understand the circumstances that led Uncle Vinnie to Vietnam and how he lost his life there.
Finally, Ralph met the Marine who held Saint as he uttered his final words before dying in his arms.
A Saint’s Letters from the Depths of Hell brings to light the story of a young man who had a burning desire to serve his country, but also wanted to be home with his family. He looked forward to coming home and enjoying the things that many of us often take for granted.
A powerful connection between siblings gave birth to this story of courage. An unlikely and serendipitous connection with the man who witnessed his Uncle’s death gave Morales a heightened recognition, honor and respect of those who served in Vietnam, and for the Gold Star families that lost loved ones during the war.
“The process took my understanding and compassion of those who serve our country to a new level,” says Morales. “Although I already respected and admired these heroes, I realized that I had so much more to give. I hope this book serves to similarly enlighten its readers.”
“Ralph connects us to Vietnam in a personal way through the letters shared between siblings and the relationships with whom Vinnie served,” explains Publisher Lisa Umina.
Vinnie, says Morales, was formerly a mythical man that neither he nor many of those who will read this book had ever met, Saint is now an Uncle, a friend and a symbol of so many other fallen heroes who were not able to “go home.” ◊