Article published Mar 28, 2008
Guam son killed in Iraq: Family, island mourn fallen Malesso soldier
By Stephanie Godlewski
Pacific Daily News
In two weeks, Staff Sgt. Joseph Gamboa would have been heading home to see the face of his 1-year-old baby girl, loving wife and four other children, who are stationed in Germany.
Instead, the island is mourning after the soldier was killed while fighting the war on terror in Iraq.
The Malesso man is the first regional casualty of the war in Iraq this year. His death brings the number of casualties to 25 since the war began in 2001.
According to The Associated Press, more than 4,000 U.S. service members have been killed in Iraq.
The United States has about 31,000 troops in Afghanistan and 156,000 in Iraq.
U.S. forces in Iraq peaked at 20 brigades last year and are to be cut to 15 brigades, with a total of about 140,000 combat and support troops, by the end of July. A key question facing Bush is whether security conditions are improved enough to justify more reductions.
Gamboa's eldest brother, Frank Gamboa Jr., said Joseph Gamboa had called the day before and expressed his excitement about heading back to Germany and the arms of his family. The next day, the family received word that Joseph Gamboa was killed.
Frank Gamboa Jr. said the family knew only a few details of what happened.
"I know he had an injury to the head from metal shooting into his head from an explosion. They said he tried to hang in there, but I think he couldn't fight it. My brother was a fighter," Frank Gamboa Jr. said.
Waiting for family
Funeral arrangements have not been made because the family is awaiting the arrival of Gamboa's wife, Michelle Gamboa, and their five children from Germany, Frank Gamboa Jr. said. In the meantime, the family will be holding nightly rosaries at their house in Dededo.
Joseph Gamboa's father-in-law, Pete Guerrero, said both sides of the family are pulling together to support each other in this difficult time.
"Our culture makes us busy, so we don't grieve much until the day (of the funeral), so what we do is prep. It's a team effort," Pete Guerrero said. "It's culture that makes it hard to grieve. I would not trade it for anything else."
Frank Gamboa Jr. said it was his brother's second tour in Iraq and he had narrowly missed disaster before by staying in the barracks when he should have been eating and the mess hall was attacked.
Frank Gamboa Jr. said his brother was an adventurous soul out to better his life for his family.
"He was an adventurous person who liked to have a lot of fun," Frank Gamboa Jr. said. "He left Guam to get his life going better."
The brother said he got to see Joseph Gamboa last year. During the visit, Joseph Gamboa gave his dog tags to his father.
"At least we got to say, 'We're proud of you. You're doing a good thing,'" Frank Gamboa Jr. said.
Other branches of the military are offering their sympathies to the family and offering to help them with anything they might require.
Guam Army and Air Guard spokeswoman Officer Candidate Christine Martinez said everyone in the service stands with the family in their time of grief.
"On behalf of Maj. Gen. Donald J. Goldhorn and the Guam Army and Air National Guard family, we would like to express our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Staff Sgt. Joseph Gamboa," Martinez said. "He gave the ultimate sacrifice defending our nation and its people. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Staff Sergeant Gamboa's family and we stand ready to help them should they need our assistance."
Gov. Felix Camacho also sent his condolences to Joseph Gamboa's friends and family.
"The lieutenant governor and I are deeply saddened by the loss of U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Joseph Gamboa. He was a brave soldier who fought for our freedom and made the ultimate sacrifice. Our heartfelt condolences are with the Gamboa family and all those who mourn this great loss. I have declared a state of mourning and ordered all flags to be flown at half-staff in his honor. I ask the people of Guam to pray for the Gamboa family and all the men and women who protect our great nation."