Hispanic Vista
April 14, 2003

The next time some Latino starts to whine about how bad things are–
tell him about Marine Lance Corporal Gutierrez.

                          By Gil Contreras

                          While anti-war demonstrators (though significantly fewer)
                          continue to hold protests not many support, and groups like
                          "Latinos Against the War," who no one has ever heard of,
                          continue to whine about war, Bush, racism and 500 years of
                          Latino oppression, some are proving that not all of us with
                          Hispanic surnames spend our lives complaining about the very
                          freedoms we enjoy and the country that provides them.
                          Lance Corporal Jose A. Gutierrez, one of the first U.S. Marine
                          casualties in Iraq, paid the ultimate price in service to a country
                          he loved more than life itself. Gutierrez was killed battling
                          Republican Guard forces in southern Iraq last month. Orphaned
                          as a child, the Guatemalan national was a legal resident of the
                          United States, but not a citizen when he was killed in combat.
                          Last week, for his service to a country he longed to be a citizen
                          of, the U.S. government posthumously awarded Gutierrez his
                          treasured citizenship.
                          After hopping trains to get to this country and moving from
                          foster home to foster home, Gutierrez graduated from high
                          school and joined the Corp. He wanted to "give back" to a
                          country that had given him, a Guatemalan orphan, the
                          opportunity to have a home, go to school, and join the Marines.
                          Cardinal Roger M. Mahoney, said in a recent L.A. Times article
                          (4/8/03), that the gesture of posthumous citizenship was not
                          adequate, and that all foreign born soldiers serving in the U.S.
                          military should be immediately naturalized. Mahony said, "They
                          come with a generosity of heart to make our country better."
                          Gutierrez believed that there was something larger than him at
                          stake when he joined The Corps. He knew his life of poverty
                          and hardship was not his fault, nor the fault of anyone else. He
                          could have "joined a group," complained about all he didn't
                          have, he could have demanded that "somebody" owed him
                          something because he was orphaned as a child, or for
                          transgressions against his ancestors that occurred hundreds of
                          years before he was even born. He could have done that.
                          But he didn't.
                          While Latino groups, so-called Latino leaders, and Latino
                          activists like Dr. Rudy Acuña fill young Latino minds with
                          nonsense about 500 years of oppression, racial profiling by law
                          enforcement and the military, and teaching them to see the Cucui
                          everywhere else, some Latinos like Gutierrez know what they
                          believe in and what they stand for. While activists teach young
                          Latinos to blame the government for their position in life, Latinos
                          like Gutierrez take responsibility for their own lives and make
                          their own way.
                          While activists at Cal State Northridge under the guidance of
                          “leaders” like Acuña, from the comfort of a university campus
                          while having heady discussions and sipping on lattes, protest the
                          military R.O.T.C. program, real leaders like Gutierrez were on
                          the front lines ensuring that Acuña and company have the right to
                          do so.

                          So, the next time some Latino starts to whine about how bad
                          Latino gang members, drug dealers, and career criminals are
                          treated by the police and the criminal justice system, remind
                          them that not all Latinos involve themselves in such activities.
                          The next time some Latino activist wants to "stage a protest," tell
                          them to protest low test scores, high drop out rates or
                          illegitimate Latino children. Remind them that not all Latino
                          immigrants are anti-American or come here to get on AFDC or
                          GR and that perhaps, just perhaps, some Latinos in juvenile hall,
                          probation camps and state prison could learn a very valuable
                          lesson from an orphaned child from Guatemala who overcame
                          adversity and became a local hero. It's a simple matter of honor.

                          Semper Fi Lance Corporal, we won't forget!

                          Gil Contreras is a former police officer, award winning journalist
                          and writer in Los Angeles. Email: Xcop1035@aol.com