Air Force investigating how the body of a man with no military connection wound up on a Texas base

Juan Santiago had moved to San Antonio in June 2020 and went missing shortly afterwards

The Air Force is investigating the death of a man with no military connection whose partial skeletal remains were found at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston last month, the service wrote in a press release on Monday.

A Massachusetts native, Juan Santiago had moved to San Antonio in June 2020 and went missing shortly afterwards, family members said. He was 37 and “looking for a better future” when he moved, NBC 10 Boston reported. 

Santiago’s remains were found on Dec. 27 near Salado Creek in the northeast part of the base. The Air Force did not say in the press release how non-military remains showed up on the gated grounds of the base, which hosts the headquarters for U.S. Army North, U.S. Army South, the Army Medical Command and the Army Medical Department Center and School. The Air Force Office of Special Investigations is “further looking into the circumstances of his death,” the service wrote.

“Juan Santiago’s family has been on a long journey to find him since June 20, 2020 … Today they now know that Juan is coming home to be laid to rest properly,” wrote one Facebook user on a page set up last year to help find Santiago. “They will continue to fight as a family to find justice to what has happened to him. Tonight, let’s all remember Juan and pray for his loved ones.”

The announcement comes the same week Army Staff. Sgt. Jessica Mitchell was pronounced dead on Jan. 1 after she was found in her car with multiple gunshot wounds. Mitchell was a dental specialist at the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. She was on holiday leave at the time.

In a separate incident on New Year’s Eve, Army Pfc. Asia M. Graham, 19, was found unresponsive at Fort Bliss on Thursday and later pronounced dead. A statement from Fort Bliss on Monday said foul play was not suspected. The Charlotte Observer reported that Graham had reported being sexually assaulted shortly before her death. 

Last year, 25 soldiers assigned to Fort Hood, about a two-and-a-half hour drive north of JBSA, died by suicide, homicide or accidents. Most prominent among them was Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén, who was reported missing in April and later found dismembered, burned, and buried miles away allegedly at the hands of another soldier. 

“That is a sacred trust, that these mothers and fathers are trusting us with their sons and daughters,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston told Task & Purpose after the release of a 152-page report showing widespread failings throughout the Fort Hood chain of command. “We failed that mother and father. And we failed Vanessa Guillén. And [the] leadership of this Army needs to resolve that we’re not going to fail again.” 

Related: ‘This can’t be my Army’ — The Fort Hood report is a long-overdue wake-up call for Army leaders

David Roza

David Roza View David Roza's articles

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David Roza covers the Air Force and anything Star Wars-related. He joined Task & Purpose in 2019, after covering local news in Maine and then FDA policy in Washington D.C. He loves hearing the stories of individual airmen and their families, and he also holds the unpopular opinion that Imperial stormtroopers are actually excellent marksmen. david.roza@taskandpurpose.com Contact the author here.