Body of South Bay soldier returns to Gilroy

January 6, 2010 6:59:45 PM PST
An Army soldier with deep ties to the Bay Area came home to Gilroy for the final time after he was killed in Afghanistan.

The family of staff Sgt. David Gutierrez was surrounded by loved ones when his coffin arrived on Wednesday morning. It was an emotional event and everyone felt it.

David was their son, husband and father, but he died serving his country.

"My son was something special. He loved the Army," the victim's father Hector Gutierrez said.

The father of three young boys was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. It happened on Christmas day.

More than 100 Patriot Guard Riders gathered at the Hollister airport to support the family, and act as ambassadors for a number much greater.

"That we are representatives of our entire nation to show support for our fallen heroes," Don Newton from the Patriot Guard Riders said.

The crowd formed a circle and watched silently as the family approached the coffin. They did not need to know David's wife Patty to share her pain. They heard it and felt it.

"I was thinking the only difference between that family and my family is fate and destiny, because my husband was over there," military wife Lauretta Avina said.

Staff Sgt. Gutierrez will be buried on Thursday with full military honors in his hometown of Gilroy, a place where the streets were lined with emotion on Wednesday.

The little boy that once went to kindergarten in the South Bay returned for a final time. He had joined the army in 1998 and served in Iraq before his deployment to Afghanistan in 2008.

David and Patty were married for 12 years and had three little boys ages 12, six and four.

"It's all about family for him, the Army family and then his family as well," Ray Fields, a friend of Gutierrez said.

Staff Sgt David Gutierrez was 35 years old and each one of those years must now last for generations.

"Those memories all stay with me, memories that I'll have to pass on to his three children," Gutierrez said.