Based: Camp Pendleton
2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force
Supporting: Operation Iraqi Freedom
Died: March 21, 2003
Umm Qasr (near), Iraq
High School: North High (Torrance)
Foreign Country of Birth: Guatemala
Burial: Buried in Guatemala
Long before he ever traveled to the Persian Gulf, Marine Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez was acquainted with perilous and uncertain journeys.
Lanky, quiet and full of ambition, Gutierrez, 22, is believed to be the second U.S. serviceman to die in combat, an American soldier with a distinctive Southern California background: He was among thousands of Central American immigrants who for years have made their way to this state in dangerous personal odysseys.
At age 16, he had traveled by himself from his home in Guatemala, making his way across Mexico into the United States, where he was taken in by an older couple, who later in life had begun sheltering immigrant children.
Gutierrez made the 2,000-mile journey across the continent as one of many young immigrants who come here from Latin America each year, seeking family members or jobs.
Gutierrez made the trip as many of his countrymen do -- by any means, said Hector E. Tobar, a longtime friend of the family who had taken in Gutierrez. On the way, he had hopped aboard at least 14 trains, Tobar said.
But like so many immigrants, Gutierrez's past was eclipsed by his new life as an American and as a would-be architect who was quickly learning English and whose eyes were firmly fixed on his future.
He left behind a sister in a poor neighborhood of Guatemala City, his official next-of-kin in military records, a Guatemalan government official said.
According to a military spokesman in the Middle East, Gutierrez died in battle about 4 p.m. Friday, struck by enemy fire as he fought alongside his fellow Marines near the southern Iraqi city of Umm al Qasr.
In taxicabs and restaurants, people talked of the death of Gutierrez. Some said it was easy to sympathize. Many in this city have relatives in the U.S., and a few talked of having a cousin or a nephew fighting with U.S. forces in the Middle East.
The American Embassy in Guatemala estimates that nearly 1,500 Guatemalans or Guatemalan Americans are in the U.S. military.
Guatemalan officials said little was known of Gutierrez's life in Guatemala. His sister, apparently his sole relative, was said to live in one of the most poverty-stricken and dangerous quarters of the crowded capital.
Read the entire LA Times article about Marine Lance Corporal Jose Antonio Gutierrez here,
find more at Military Times,
and Army Times.
Visit Corporal Jose Antonio Gutierrez's Guest Book.
|U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez, as seen in photos at the home of his sister in Guatemala City, was one of the first combat casualties of the war in Iraq. He had come to the U.S. from Guatemala as a teenager.|
|LOMITA, CA - APRIL 7: U.S. Marines escort Engracia Sirina Gutierrez, sister of U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez, into Mary Alacoque Catholic Church for a memorial mass for Gutierrez April 7, 2003 in the Los Angeles area city of Lomita, California. Gutierrez, killed March 21, 2003, was one of the first Americans killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Gutierrez came to the United States as an illegal immigrant from his native Guatemala and was posthumously made a citizen of the U.S. by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. |
Picture: Life Magazine.