Friday, August 21, 2009

Spanaway soldier is oldest to die in Afghanistan war

For the second time in three months, war has claimed the life of a U.S. soldier who served in Vietnam and was old enough to carry an AARP card.

This one was close to home, a senior NCO from Spanaway, First Sgt. Jose "Joe" San Nicolas Crisostomo, 59, who on Tuesday became the oldest member of the U.S. armed forces to perish in Afghanistan.

After retiring with 24 years of service in the Army in 1993, Crisostomo voluntarily returned to help out the Army in April 2008, deploying to Kabul two months later, the Pacific Daily News of Guam reported.

Crisostomo, a leader of South Seattle's Chamorro community from Guam, was a Vietnam war veteran, 1991 Gulf War veteran, and received two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart during his previous 24 years of service.

A husband, father of three and grandfather of 10, Crisostomo would have turned 60 on Aug. 29th.

The News Tribune of Tacoma has a story that the Seattle Times picked up that says dozens of people, many from South Sound's Chamorro community of which Crisostomo was a leader, have gathered daily at his home since then to support his wife, Patricia, and his family and to participate in a nine day rosary. The paper said Crisostomo was also nicknamed Sinbad.

Julian Leon Guerrero Mendiola, a fellow veteran who helped found Grupun Minagof, a community group of Chamorro families in the Pacific Northwest, said Cristosomo was most often called "Joe."

"He was one hell of a guy. He was very family-oriented. And he went above and beyond himself to help other people," the Pacific Daily News quoted Mendiola as saying.

Crisostomo died when a roadside bomb tore through the armored Humvee in which he was riding outside of Kabul on Tuesday. The Defense Department said Crisostomo served with International Security Assistance Force Kabul, but did not specify a unit within it or from what U.S. Army post he was based.

In May, Maj. Steven Hutchison of Scottsdale, Ariz., another Vietnam veteran, was killed in Iraq, become the oldest member of the U.S. armed forces killed in either war.

Hutchison wanted to reenlist after 9/11 but his wife was against it, his brother told the Associated press.

After Hutchison's wife died "a part of him died and he rejoined the Army in July 2007 at age 59, his brother, Richard, told the AP in May.

Hutchison served in Afghanistan for a year before deploying to Iraq last October to lead a team of a dozen soldiers training the Iraq military.

Hutchison, who taught psychology at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles in the 1990s, served with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division based at Fort Riley, Kan.

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