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Army 1st Sgt. Jose S.N. Crisostomo

Died August 18, 2009 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom

59, of Injaran, Guam; assigned to International Security Assistance Force, Kabul, Afghanistan; died Aug. 18 in Kabul, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.

‘He was one hell of a guy’

By Brett Kelman

Pacific Daily News

While stationed in Germany through Liberation Day in 1985, Julian Leon Guerrero Mendiola shook hands with a Chamorro man he didn’t know. Jose San Nicolas Crisostomo was stationed a few hours away, so the brothers-in-arms had never met.

“He was one hell of a guy,” Mendiola said yesterday, preparing a rosary for his fallen friend. “He was very family-oriented. And he went above and beyond himself to help other people.”

Army 1st Sgt. Jose Crisostomo, who was often called Joe instead of Jose, was killed by a roadside blast in Afghanistan on Aug. 18. He became the oldest of the 33 sons and daughters of Micronesia to have died in the Global War on Terror since 2003. He was 59.

Mendiola said yesterday he met Crisostomo again years after they both left Germany and relocated to Washington state, where they had decided to create lives far away from their beloved island, people and culture.

In 1999, both men were founding members of Grupun Minagof, a community group of Chamorro families who keep ties in the Pacific Northwest so they can retain the family ties they cherished in Guam.

“We describe it as a ‘group of happiness,’ or our happy group. And he was our first vice president,” Mendiola said.

Even later, Mendiola would realize that because Crisostomo was married to Patricia Duenas Leon Guerrero Crisostomo, they were probably related. There are a lot of Leon Guerreros on Guam, but they are all linked somehow, Mendiola said.

Jim Aguigui, the first president of Grupun Minagof, said the organization was started to keep Chamorros who had left Guam cured of homesickness and away from poverty.

For this cause, Crisostomo was aggressive and effective. If Chamorros needed help, he would get it to them, Aguigui said.

“If the time came when they needed help, so they would get on their feet, we would help out in weddings, times of passing, christenings. ... We were there when a Chamorro would need us here in the state of Washington,” Aguigui said.

Aguigui stepped down as head of Grupun Minagof after about six years and Crisostomo eventually took his seat as president.

Crisostomo was still president as of two years ago, when he decided to re-enlist in the military, said friend John Lizama.

Lizama was elected to fill Crisostomo’s spot and is still leading the group.

“Joe was an absolutely outstanding leader,” Lizama said. “He has the biggest heart of gold. He’s been extremely charitable to the organizations in Washington state.”

Lizama said Crisostomo was so patriotic, vibrant, motivated and physically fit, few of his friends were surprised when Crisostomo decided he would — or could — re-enlist.

“His enthusiasm is such that it is so contagious he can really motivate people. As old as he was, he is such a motivated and well-liked person that his charisma is actually spectacular,” Lizama said.

Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo and acting Gov. Mike Cruz issued statements yesterday that said they also were mourning Crisostomo’s death.

“We extend our deepest sympathies and prayers to his family and loved ones. 1st Sergeant Crisostomo was a hero and his sacrifices made in the name of our freedom will not be forgotten by the people of Guam,” Bordallo’s statement said.

Crisostomo tribute set

By Bernice Santiago

Pacific Daily News

A tribute for Army 1st Sgt. Jose “Joe” S.N. Crisostomo, who died on Aug. 18 while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, will be held in Talofofo this Saturday.

Crisostomo, 59, died in Kabul, Afghanistan, from wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle, according to an Aug. 21 release from the Department of Defense.

Crisostomo is a son of Inarajan, and left the island when he joined the Army for a career lasting decades, his wife, Patricia Duenas Leon Guerrero Crisostomo, said last week.

The tribute will begin at 4:45 p.m Saturday at the San Miguel Church in Talofofo, his sister-in-law, Catherine Leon Guerrero, said. Nightly Mass will continue at the parish until the Aug 29. service.

He was the 33rd soldier from Micronesia to become a casualty of the War on Terror since 2003. He was the third soldier from Micronesia to die this year in the Middle East.

As of Aug. 1 of this year, 759 members of the U.S. armed services have died while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, the Philippines, southwest Asia and other areas since 2001, according to the Department of Defense. As of Aug. 24 of this year, 1,331 members of coalition forces have died in Afghanistan since 2001, either in support of U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom or the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, according to CNN.

Crisostomo was assigned to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, Afghanistan. He was one of more than 64,000 members of the ISAF, who are conducting security and stabilization operations throughout Afghanistan, according to NATO releases.

“On behalf of my sister (Patricia Crisostomo), she extends her gratitude for all the condolences and support that the island has given in honor of her husband,” Leon Guerrero said.

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