Lance Corporal Jose Gutierrez

Lance Corporal Jose Gutierrez

Lance Corporal Jose Gutierrez, 27, a rifleman with the Marines, died in a tank battle on March 21, 2003,  near Umm Qasr in southern Iraq. Gutierrez was one of 38,000 non-citizens who serve in the U.S. military.

At 14, with his parents dead, Gutierrez made the 3,000-mile journey from his Guatemala City neighborhood without entry papers. He hopped on several freight trains to get through Mexico. U.S. immigration authorities detained him. Jose Gutierrez lied about his age to avoid being sent back. He was made a ward of Los Angeles Juvenile Court. Jose spent time in a series of group homes and foster families. He learned English and finished high school. In 1999 Gutierrez obtained permanent U.S. resident status. He put his college plans on hold to join the Marine Corps. A friend said he wanted to give back to the United States because he came with nothing and this country gave him everything.

His family wanted him buried in Guatemala and the U.S. government bought him a plot in one of the best cemetaries. His fellow U.S. Marines went  down to Guatemala to give him a proper burial.  In honor of his military service and death in combat, federal authorities have made him eligible for posthumous citizenship.

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