2 Fort Carson soldiers killed in Kuwait crash

By Jakob Rodgers Published: May 3, 2013 | 7:50 pm 0

Spc. Trinidad Santiago Jr. knew his first child only through black and white ultrasound pictures posted on Facebook.

His Skype connection in Kuwait was poor. So his wife, Belgica Santiago, announced her pregnancy on Facebook.

'We were ready to start a family, ' Belgica Santiago, 23, said.

Spc. Santiago, 25, and another Fort Carson soldier - Pfc. Charles P. McClure, 21, of Stratford, Okla. - died Thursday in a vehicle crash at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.

'I just don't know what to think, ' said Belgica Santiago, in a phone interview. 'I don't know what to feel. '

The soldiers' deaths are the first casualties for the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team since about 2,000 of the brigade's soldiers deployed to Kuwait in February.

Both men were cannoneers with the brigade's 4th Battalion of the 42nd Field Artillery Regiment, according to Fort Carson records. Their tour, expected to last nine-months, differed greatly from every other brigade-sized deployment from Fort Carson over the last decade.

Instead of traveling to a war zone, the brigade was sent to Kuwait - a key U.S. ally in the Middle East - where soldiers were expected to conduct massive training exercises.

Observers and Middle East experts say the deployment is meant to serve as deterrent to Iran while protecting U.S. interests in the region.

Hailing from Stratford, Okla., McClure joined the Army in November 2011. He was on his first overseas tour.

McClure's father requested privacy on Friday, according to an Army casualty assistance officer.

Santiago deployed once before - serving a year in Afghanistan and returning in late November 2011.

During his leave during from that tour, he took Belgica on their first date, a trip to the movies. The two went to high school together in San Diego, Calif., but had never dated.

'He was just - even in high school, he was just super nice. ' Belgica Santiago said. 'He never put himself first. He always thought about me and what was best for his family.

'That's' why he re-enlisted. He was about to be done, but we got married and he was just thinking about his family and how he was going to provide (for them). '

She expects to be at Dover Air Force Base when his body arrives there on Saturday. Then she will fly back to San Diego, where her family lives.

There, Belgica Santiago will wait for Oct. 19 - her due date.

'We're just going to have this baby and think of him every day, ' she said. 'I don't really have a plan just yet. '

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Contact Jakob Rodgers: 476-1654

Twitter @jakobrodgers

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