Guam- The island community continues to mourn the deaths of three soldiers from Guam that were killed nearly two weeks apart.
While the incident that led to 21 year old Private First Class Mariano Raymundo’s death in Sharan, Afghanistan is still under investigation, family members on Guam are preparing to fulfill his final wishes in bringing him back to the place he was born.
Laura Santos is the first cousin of Mariano. She says their family is still coming to grips with his passing.
“When Mariano was born here on Guam, I used to watch Mariano as a baby,” said Laura.
She recalls after Mariano was born at Naval Hospital on November 17, 1991, she used to watch him until he was 3 years old. That’s when he left the island and spent the rest of his years growing up in Houston, Texas with his parents, Ellen and Martin and his 3 sisters.
Laura mentions she hasn’t seen Mariano since he was little, but kept in touch with him through by phone or facebook. He told her he still remembers the beaches and other parts of Guam.
“He talked about coming to Guam,” said Laura. “His next trip to Guam would have been January 2014, after his tour from Afghanistan.”
After she heard the news of Mariano’s death from his mom on June 2, Laura says their grandparents, Florencio and Elpidia Santos and their family are still taking time to process everything. She was also surprised to learn he wanted to be cremated and taken back to Guam.
“This one’s going to be kind of different with Mariano,” said Laura. “That’s his wish and we respect your wish and they’ll follow his wish.”
Laura describes her cousin as a quiet, easy going person who loved drawing, playing video games and spending time with his 3 sisters Jacqueline, Rachel and Samantha and his niece, Olivia. Laura mentions Mariano wanted to go around the island when he was supposed to come back to Guam in 2014 and learn how to fish from his grandfather. She says he was curious in knowing more about his island, his extended family and his culture.
“As far back as 2007, mom remembers her grandson as a good artist, drawing cartoon characters and little portions of comic strips,” said Laura. He wants to know more about his family, where he comes from, how big are his cousins, how big are the Santos’ and how Guam is like.”
Laura notes their family has a history of military service. Mariano’s dad was in the military and his grandfather was a war veteran that served in the Korean War. They also have 2 other cousins in the service.
She adds family rosaries for Mariano are being held at their grandparents’ home in Tamuning around 8 p.m.. She thanks the community for their support as they get through this tough time and fulfill Mariano’s wishes.
“We come from a strong family that we learn how to make due with what have around island, our land,” said Laura. “We make a good effort out of it to get our family through just to sell anything, fish, fruits, vegetables, crop it, harvest it, and that’s what he wanted to do when he got here.”
Mariano was with the 10th Mountain Division Soldier with the 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, based out of Ft. Drum, New York.
According to a release from Ft. Drum, he was a wheeled vehicle mechanic and joined the Army in November 2011. He deployed with his unit to Afghanistan in January of this year.
Meanwhile, the Guam National Guard has confirmed the remains of Sgt. Eugene Aguon arrived on island this afternoon [Wednesday] at Andersen Air Force Base. A brief ceremony was held at the base terminal where the family requested for privacy.
Aguon and Specialist Dwayne Flores were killed in Kabul, Afghanistan on May 16 when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attacked their convoy. Both are part of the nearly 600 soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment that are deployed to Afghanistan for the next year.
Spc. Flores’ remains arrived on Guam early Sunday morning at the Guam International Airport. His funeral is scheduled for this Friday, June 7, at the Hagatna Cathedral Basilica. He will be buried at Pigo Cemetery. No funeral date has been confirmed for Aguon yet. However, PNC has learned it will be held at the Chalan Pago church and he will be buried at the Veterans Cemetery.