USS Constitution rededicated its Enlisted Dining Facility on Oct. 12 in honor of former crew member Mess Management Specialist 3rd Class Ronchester Santiago who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the terrorist attack on the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67).
Santiago, 22, was killed serving his country when a bomb detonated on the ship’s port side from a terrorist attack while Cole was refueling in Aden, Yemen, Oct. 12, 2000.
The rededication marked the 20th anniversary of the attack by unveiling a shadow box in Santiago’s honor crafted by Constitution’s crew.
The tragic attack on Cole claimed the lives of 17 Sailors and wound 39 more.
“The hard lessons that we learned that day apply to us each and every day,” said Cmdr. John Benda, commanding officer of Constitution.
The shadow box, hanging on the dining facility’s wall, serves as a reminder to the crew of the sacrifices made by Santiago and all Sailors who gave their life in the line of duty.
Santiago, a native of Kingsville, Texas, completed basic training and Surface Warfare Engineering School before serving on Constitution from April 25, 1997 to Jan. 7, 2000.
“He joined the Navy to follow his father’s footsteps,” said Chief Boatswain’s Mate James Gainey. “His father was a retired Mess Specialist 1st Class, so they would talk about the job and share sea stories.”
He reported for his final tour aboard Cole on Feb.7, 2000, and had only two months left in his Navy career at the time of the attack.
Mess Management Specialist 3rd Class Ronchester Santiago was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, and Navy Unit Commendation.