By Josh Resnek
I wish I could have known Alexander Santilli.
He grew up in Everett during the Great Depression.
He graduated from Everett High School where he was a star football player.
He went on to Fordham University in New York where he was not just an athlete who won Fordham a Sugar Bowl contest with outstanding play, but a leader of the team.
Santilli was all about loyalty, strength and honor. What a remarkable human being he must have been.
His bravery above all, and the sacrifice he made in the name of his city and nation, rings true today, more than 80 years after his death on the battlefield.
And to think he came out of this city where he walked the same streets you do and where he was proud to come from and to be a part of.
The closeness of being from so crowded a place he grew up in here, he took with him to college.
He was well liked wherever he walked.
He was no one to trifle with.
In 1942, he signed his life away to the US Marine Corps. He became a Lt.
He served in Saipan. He experienced death every day. Shortly before he was killed, he was one of the last officers to be standing in a machine gun battalion that had been decimated. Alexander Santilli was almost blown up the day before he died.
He was shell shocked – out of it.
He was evacuated from the battlefield, literally dragged by his fellow Marines for two miles to safety and placed in the battlefield hospital behind the lines.
The next day, he was ordered to be shipped home to recover. He refused.
When no one was looking, Santilli left the hospital.
He returned to the battlefield.
He returned to his battalion “to be with my men.” He led his men that day, the last day of his life on this earth. He was fearless. He was fast. He might have survived if fate hadn’t been stacked against him.
He was shot by a Japanese sniper after leading his men where no mortal in their right mind would go…and all in the name of the United States of America.
What makes his sacrifice so poignant is that his men believed in Alexander Santilli. They trusted him. They liked him. Theywould have followed him to the end of the earth. As one of his sergeants described in a letter after the war, “we all cried when Alex went down.”
The Japanese sniper who killed him was instantly killed.
Again, I wish I could have known Alexander Santilli. I wish he was more to me than a traffic circle that bears his name.
I wish I could have known all the heroes from Everett – young men who died valiantly on the battlefield.
Many, many Alex Santilli’s have served our country and died in battle.
On Veterans Day, those of us who care enough to come out of our own easy lives pay homage to those who gave their lives on the battlefield.
It is a symbol of our gratitude for their loyalty and patriotism in the service of the armed forces of the United States in the greatest struggle in world history.
Veterans Day is about the legion of Alex Santillis who came before him and who followed that we might remain a free peo- ple.
Here we are, 80 years after his death on a faraway battlefield, celebrating his life and his sacrifice.
All those brave men and women from this city who have served their country and who have given of themselves in the name of freedom on the battlefield, to my mind, are heroes.
From now on, every time I drive around Santilli Circle I’ll think about this man I did not know.
He was a hero.
His heroism should never be forgotten.