SAN DIEGO–At a Monday press conference from the steps of his home, Navy Admiral William McManus categorized the death of his son in a weekend car crash as "a casualty within the acceptable loss range for this family."
"The unforeseeable death of my son is tragic," said McManus, clad in full Navy dress. "No one ever wants to see a young life lost. However, even as the family weeps, we must keep in mind that the damage to our unit is minimal. We have the personnel and emotional reserves necessary to move forward."
At approximately 7:25 p.m. PST Saturday, while driving to a movie in a heavy downpour, Matthew McManus, 17, spun out of control and collided with a tree, killing the teenager and girlfriend Alicia Reginio, 16.
The elder McManus said that, had one of his other three children been in the car with Matthew instead of his girlfriend, the damage to the family would have increased by "at least a factor of two."
"Luckily, only one of the Dodge Daytona's crew members, the pilot, was a member of the McManus family," McManus said. "Had there been multiple family members on board, the loss would have been more difficult to sustain. But as such, only one of six, or 17 percent of total McManus family members, were lost."
According to McManus, the death of either himself or his wife Rose would have been far more devastating.
"Last night, Rose said she wished she'd been the one who died in that crash," McManus said. "But, from a purely tactical standpoint, this is absurd. Under such a scenario, the family would lose not only a valuable income source, but also parental leadership for the remaining children. Also, Rose is still within reasonable child-bearing years, making it possible for us to rebuild our ranks with another child. Matthew, as an unmarried teen, would not have been able to do that within the bounds of God's laws for a number of years."
Even though casualties were "minimal and contained," McManus acknowledged that the accident has weakened family morale. The admiral has attempted to boost his surviving children's spirits by increasing their weekly allowances, doubling dessert rations, and extending weekend curfew. Efforts to provide his wife with back-up and support, however, have met with less success.
"I keep telling Rose that not getting past Matthew's death is a disgrace to his memory and to what he did for us and this great country of ours," McManus said. "But she just keeps saying I shouldn't have let him take the car out in that driving rainstorm. No matter how many times I tell her that visibility was 200 feet and the terrain on South Bay Freeway navigable, she remains steadfastly unconvinced."
McManus said both he and his wife knew the risks when they entered into Project: Offspring, and that she should have expected, at the very least, minimal casualties.
"I'm a pragmatic father," McManus said. "I realize that in this life, you are never going to have a 100 percent target-strike rate. So I decided long ago that if at least two of my four children graduated from Annapolis, I would be happy. I'm just glad that our family still has the numbers to make this happen."
Fellow officer and friend Lt. Roger Trimble expressed regret over the death of McManus' son.
"I know that Matthew's passing upset Admiral McManus a great deal," Trimble said. "I don't think I've ever seen him take a leave of absence, but after his son's death, he took off two full days."
"In terms of the strength of the unit, Matthew's death was the least damaging," Trimble continued. "To be blunt, Matthew was strictly 4-F. The other two boys are more responsible with brighter futures. And I know Rose really hopes that Michelle will get married and bear grandchildren in the next few years. Matthew was always getting into trouble. Even though he was a valued member of the family, he certainly wasn't going to win any medals."
McManus said he loved his son despite his weaknesses.
"I would love my son even if he decided to join the Marines," McManus said. "But when I look at the situation, I think back to what Admiral William R. Booker said when his daughter fell off a cliff during a hiking trip. 'You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs,' he said. These words still ring true today."