The southernmost village on the island of Guam, Merizo covers six square miles and contains about 1,800 people. But don’t let the numbers fool you. Merizo has, pound for pound, one of the proudest legacies of military service anywhere.
Part of this legacy are Master Sgts. Joe Santiago and Andrew Barcinas, both active members of the Guam National Guard. For Father’s Day, as they prepare for the Sergeants Major Academy, they talk about family values in rural Guam culture, and its connection to their success in the military.
What was the culture like growing up in Merizo?
AB: For us down south, it’s all about respect. We respect our elders, we’re humble and we welcome everyone. Money is not an object as much as friendship and living life the simple way. We were very secluded, so we had to make do with what we had. Maybe once every school year we would go into town.
JS: Back then, it was yes ma’am or sir. Our elders would teach us once and expect us to learn, and it’s the same way in the Army. Whether feeding the dogs and pigs, moving the carabao to the shade, cutting grass by hand. We were held accountable for our responsibilities.
How have these values helped in your military career?
JS: It’s all about family. We come together in the military like we do as family. Growing up we had no air conditioning and we used outhouses. So on deployments, the so-called rough conditions just reminded me of back in the days. Also, our faith added discipline in our lives, so basic training was easy. My dad yelled much louder than the drill sergeants, so I had fun at basic!
AB: Being in the military, we respect the rank, and we treat others the way we want to be treated. It’s not about me, it’s not about you. It’s about all of us, together.
How does it feel to be accepted into the Sergeants Major Academy?
AB: It’s definitely a blessing to reach this milestone in my career. I had good mentors that pushed me to pass them, so I’m thankful for that. Thanks to all the SGMs and officers. Also, to my family, without their support, none of this would be possible. To the Soldiers, everything we do is for you all. I’d like to say consider the opportunities that could lie ahead of you too.
JS: I’m also grateful to be here. In addition to my family, thank you to all our Soldiers and leaders along the way, including this command and State CSM Diaz and others for your mentorship. It’s never been in my vocabulary to quit. We train, we fight, and we survive.
Any final thoughts for Father’s Day?
JS: To all past, present, and future, Happy Father’s Day and blessings to all.
AB: Spend time with your Fathers and enjoy your time with them while you still can. Happy Father’s Day!
(Guam National Guard Public Affairs)