Cristea has blood and guts war stories from his six months in Iraq and Kuwait, but he says the last thing he wants to do is to tell them. Instead, the Marine prefers Americans see beyond the fighting and dying in Iraq and know the good he and his comrades-in-arms have brought to that country.
"What's important to me is that my country knows the good we did for (Iraq). You see stuff every day on TV. What they don't hear is the progress we've made over there."
That progress, according to the 1999 Valparaiso High School graduate, includes bringing law and order, government services and freedom.
"We did so much for those people."
Cristea, who returned to his base at Camp Pendleton in California in mid-August, is on leave, visiting his parents in Kouts for several weeks.
"We're thankful, thankful, thankful he's home," his mother, Debi, said,
Cristea wants to counter the prevailing media view of the reception U.S. troops have received in Iraq.
"All you hear is negativity. Ninety-five percent of the population in Iraq, in my experience with the locals -- they had nothing but good to say about us.
"A lot of them would come to us with information, a lot would come to thank us."
Kids jumped up and down when they saw his convoy, Cristea said. In Baghdad, Iraqis would crowd the barbed wire perimeter of his unit's compound and call out "USA! USA! Bush! Bush!"
"Whenever we drove anyplace, it was like we were in a parade," he said.