Today is Memorial Day, a day that we recognize the personal sacrifices of those who have died while serving in the US Armed Forces.
“All gave some; some gave all” – Howard William Osterkamp
As you may have read in my previous post “Memorial Day 2019”, I don’t think I have done enough in the past to recognize this day’s meaning and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
This year I took the kids and a friend of theirs to the local Memorial Day Commemorative Service. The kids are young (11, 9 & 8), so I discussed the meaning of the day briefly on the way. Kids being kids, what they took away from this chat is that there is going to be a fly-over of F-15’s.
There were far more people at the event than I expected, which covered multiple generations. (Sadly that is the extent of the diversity in attendance, but I don’t think that has anything to do with the event itself or the organizers). I was pleased with the number of people and the quality of the service, for what I consider a small town event. Typical for Oregon, it started raining immediately, and the cloud cover was too low to see the F-15 fly-over, so we only heard it. I shared with the kids; that is what we call the “sound of freedom” in the military. All that aside, I think it was a great educational event for the kids.
Lt. Mark Sharp, USN, Naval Aviator
Lt. Mark “Notso” Sharp is the only person I have been personally acquainted with that has died while serving in the military. I served with him in squadron VS-21 “Redtails.” He was a pilot of S-3B Viking aircraft, and I was aircrew. I wasn’t in his regular crew, but I did fly with him on several occasions. I didn’t know him well, as the officers and enlisted aircrew didn’t really hang out in a meaningful way. He died in 1994 in a training accident as an instructor pilot flying a T-2. This I knew, but my research hasn’t turned up much other than a summary of the crash. I have learned he was from Portland, OR (where I currently live), but I didn’t know that at the time. I tried to find an obituary to see if he is buried here, but I can’t find any additional information. I thought it would be good to see where he is buried, but no luck. I’ll keep researching. In the meantime, this is all I found: “Navy pilot killed, Ft. Wayne Marine pilot injured.”
Lance Corporal Jose Gutierrez, USMC
I mentioned that each Memorial Day weekend, I would dedicate the time to learn about someone who has paid the ultimate price in losing their life while serving in the US Armed Forces; then share that person’s story. I picked Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez, USMC not because his death is any more or less significant than anyone else’s death, but because it touches on a little known fact that non-US citizens are serving and dying in the US Armed Forces. This is significant because these foreign-born service members are under attack by our current President’s administration and being discharged from service, and there are veterans of our Armed Forces who have been deported. This is morally wrong. There are many reasons our veterans serve and die, but high on that list is to protect our American values, values like those exhibited in the poem by Emma Lazarus, memorialized on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty:
“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Here is the TL:DR version, but please visit the links below for more information about Lance Corporal Jose Gutierrez, USMC, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Lance Cpl. Gutierrez was born in Guatemala, and his parents were killed when he was very young. He found himself, living on the streets as a child until he was taken in at an orphanage. When Jose grew older, he traveled 2,000 miles across Mexico by hopping trains to get to the border of America, where he crossed, undocumented (illegally for those of you irked by the word ‘undocumented’) for a better life. Now I am not going to say Jose Gutierrez was perfect, but whom among us is? He did what he had to do to survive, make a better life for himself and his sister still in his native land of Guatemala. He was picked up as an unaccompanied minor and placed into foster care. As it turns out, from later stories, he was actually an adult, not a minor. Do what you have to do to survive. He was kind to his foster family, and it is obvious they loved him. He finished high school and joined the Marines to give back to the country that had given him so much. Some of you may say he did this only to become a US citizen, as some only join to get money for college. I counter that in saying, when the time came to ship off to war, he could have gone back to Mexico, the border was less than an hour away. But he didn’t, he deployed with his brothers to Iraq, where he was one of the first Marines to fall in battle on March 21, 2003. Sadly, he died from friendly fire. He died before he would realize his dream of becoming a US Citizen, though he was awarded citizenship posthumously.
Here are some articles you can read about Lance Corporal Jose Gutierrez, USMC. Died March 21, 2003: