It was Saturday October 5th 1996. One week post-op of a surgery I had to remove a tumor. I needed to get out from being bed-ridden all week. My best friend got me out of bed and we went to a Sports Bar we were regulars at. There was a new guy at the door checking ID’s. Everyone else knew who we were and signaled to let us in, but, nope.. David wasn’t budging. He demanded he see my ID. When I showed him mine, he said that the ID didn’t look like me that the girl in the photo was smiling and I wasn’t. It was cold, I was wearing a short skirt and my feet were already killing me from the high heels and hike up the stairs to get there because the garage elevator wasn’t working. He wouldn’t let me in until he saw the smile. I gave him a cheesy fake one and he still wouldn’t let me in. After a few minutes, he finally told me to go in. I told one of the other bouncers, who I knew, “I don’t like that guy”. Later on in the night, one of my friends spilled her water on the table. David was walking around with a stack of napkins he was bringing to one of the bartenders. I asked him if we could get some and he handed me ONE. One?! “Can I have more please?” The smarty pants in him handed me the whole stack and walked away. I was sure I hated him. Later that night, my friends and I decided to go to a nightclub across the street where one of my girlfriends boyfriend was a DJ. Small world that David knew who he was and after his shift, he and a couple of other bouncers went to the same club. He saw me, came up to me, stuck his hand out and said “Let’s start this all over, my name is Dave”. How could I NOT be nice to him.
Long story short..we were married 10 weeks later. When you know, you know. We married on 12/28/96. We had our first son in November of 1997 and David was laid off from his main job in the summer of 1998 so he decided to enlist in the Army.
We had a wonderful life and a great marriage. We went from Georgia to Tennessee to Hawaii to Washington State. David was in Korea for a year then he deployed to Iraq with his fellow Wolfhounds and then Afghanistan with 2/1 Infantry out of Ft. Lewis.
The first 5 months of his deployment was kind of hard as we had to rely on old school pen and paper and phone calls. But once his unit got to their permanent FOB, they got internet! For almost 1 month, David and I Skyped everyday. (While I was at work, we had to downgrade to yahoo instant message) It was a wonderful blessing to have that option. We talked, laughed, cried and even argued but we got to see each other as we did so. David got to see the Boys and they their Father. “Just a couple more weeks till R&R” was one of his last statements. The last time we talked was Christmas Eve his time and Christmas Eve Eve our time. He watched me wrap presents and heard me yell at the tree in the background that was starting to tip over. After some laughter, he told me he had to go to a Leadership meeting and then patrol and then he’d be right back on the computer to wish us a “Merry Christmas”.
Christmas Eve came and went…no word from David. I thought, “maybe their internet got messed up again”. Christmas morning came and I turned my volume up and waited for that notification ding to let me know that David logged on. Nothing. I started to make breakfast for my boys, my Mom, Sister and Nephew who were visiting. Then..that horrible sound that still bothers me till this day… doorbell.
My nephew opened the door but the thoughts running through my head were everything BUT Chaplains. I thought “who is here this early on Christmas? Is it a delivery, is it a guest, is it David pulling a surpirse visit again?” David didn’t tell me about R&R when he was in Korea and surprised me and our oldest (then only son) Andrew with a visit home. All I know is that I checked the computer before walking over to the door..I started to move slower when I saw the arm of one of the Chaplains. I saw green. Green Class A jacket to be exact. I froze. I immediately and aggressively asked “CAN I HELP YOU?” One of the chaplains asked “are you Mrs. Patty Gutierrez?” “YES” “Are you the wife of Army Staff Sgt. David Hector Gutierrez?” “YES..WHY?!” “May we come in?” “NO!” and I ran.. I ran to the furthest part of the kitchen, dropped to my knees and started crying hysterically. My nephew still frozen (he is prior Air Force) because he knew EXACTLY why they were here. My Mom and Sister on the other hand did not know what was going on. They told me to get up, that maybe they just have a message..they knew NOTHING of this lifestyle and what it means when a Chaplain shows up to your door during a deployment. I told them to get away from me that there is only one reason why they would show up. The boys came down wondering what the heck was going on. I told my nephew to take them upstairs, quickly. He did, and then he came down..picked me up from the floor and told me to just hear them out..maybe it was a mistake. Nope.
We all sat down in the livingroom in front of the Christmas tree that all of a sudden lost its joy. They gave me their speech, their condolences, their prayers. I heard none of it. When they were finished and ready to leave, I asked “are you sure you have the right David Gutierrez? There are two of them and the Army always messes up their PCS orders!” They sat me back down again and told me there wasn’t a mistake.
David was on patrol and was clearing a rooftop of a building when he hit the IED. The medics worked on him until the bird came and took him to Kandahar Air Force Base. There, the Doctors worked on him for several hours but his injuries and blood loss was too much for him to continue. David was pronounced “dead” on Christmas day.
We laid David to rest in Gilroy, CA where my children and I now reside. Our 4th child and only daughter, Reyna, was stillborn in 2008 and his request “if something should happen” was that he be buried with her, in his parents home town. He was very active in sports and played in an Adult Amateur Football League until his deployment. He was a great father and a wonderful Husband. I couldn’t of married a better man. He was my everything and I always vowed I would be lost without him. Sometimes, I still feel that way but I have moved forward with the rest of the world. I have to keep my boys happy. I run, I sometimes work out and I started writing. I don’t know what will come of it, but it helps me release. I wasn’t sure how I was going to fit back into the Civilian lifestyle after being a Military Wife for so long. My friends are wonderful though. And, although still in touch with many, I miss my Army Wife friends and the “I totally get you” vibe when around them. There are times when I just want to hide and not do anything and I have those days..but those are my days to cope and to grieve. For the most part, I get my kids out there. We go to functions, parties, events and playdates. As a now single Mother of three boys, it really does help to surround myself with positive people, people who want to be with us and enjoy being around us. Thankfully, I have stayed in touch with some of my civilian friends from childhood and so grateful they are in my life still and I thank God everyday that I have been blessed with wonderful Army Wife sisters who take the time to ask how me and the Boys are doing. Not only that, but some of David’s comrades over the years stay in touch and it makes me happy because a lot of these guys were at our house for holiday dinners, birthday parties and just plain ole BBQ’s! They were like family to us and to know that they still care makes my heart warm. I honor David the best way I know how. By staying busy, happy and making sure our Boys are well taken care of. A life without David is something I never imagined having to do, but since I was forced to do so overnight.. I stay strong by living my life.
SSG David H. Gutierrez
8/16/74 – 12/25/09
A big man with a bigger heart!