Guttierez of Solomon, AZ peacefully rode his horse off into the sunset
on December 20, 2019. He was surrounded by his wife, children and
grandchildren. Mike is survived b his wife of 32 years, Ruth, four
daughters Flora (Robert) Aguilar, Catalina (Stuart) Guttierez, Roberta
Frederick, Reba Blount and two sons Michael (Bridget) Guttierez and
Jeffery (Sarah) Guttierez, seventeen grandchildren, eighteen great
grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren. He is also survived
by his ninety-eight-year-old sister Teresa Dominguez and many nieces,
nephews and cousins.
Mike was employed by Big Ranch, the Morris Brothers, Michelena’s Store
and owned the Hideaway Store. He then went to work for Gila Valley
Irrigation in 1968 and retired in 2000. Mike was a ‘Paid -for-life”
member of the American Legion Post 32 in Safford.
Mike rode horses for most of his life. He broke horses at a younger
age, became a team roper and enjoyed attending rodeos and horse races.
In his earlier years, Mike would have breakfast with his parents, except
when he was gone for WWII. He could often be found playing pool and
darts with family and friends. When the music began to play, Mike would
begin two-stepping to his favorite country music.
In 1943, Mr. Claridge helped keep Mike at home, being the only son,
when the military tried to draft him into the Army. When the military
sent Mike his draft notice the next year, Mr. Claridge again tried to
intervene, but Mike told him “No, I have to serve my country.” In May of
1944, Mike went to Fort MacArthur to begin his duty as an Infantryman
in the U.S. Army. While serving in Germany under General Patton, he
earned a Combat Infantry Badge, European African Middle Eastern Campaign
Medal, Good Conduct Medal and Victory Medal. Mike also earned two
battle stars while serving in WWII. Mike often talked about how General
Patton was known as “blood and guts.” While serving in Germany, Mike was
captured and held as a Prisoner of War for two days until him and a
fellow soldier managed to escape. Mike was able to kill a German Sniper,
who had killed his fellow soldier. By fellow soldiers and friends, Mike
somehow earned the nickname “Sleepy.” After a fellow soldier was killed
in combat, Mike brought his personal property back to the waiting
Escalante family. The Escalante family had lost all three sons in WWII
but gained a friend with getting to know Mike.
Mike was preceded in death by his parents, Miguel and Francisca Guttierez, and grandson Landis Frederick.
Local veteran’s story told Dec 8, 2012 Editor:
Gila Valley should establish a hall of fame and forever etch the names
of all veterans who have marched, sailed, parachuted or otherwise
arrived, as ordered, “over there,” ready to live or die on the field of
battle. I have the distinct privilege to have a father-in-law who was
one of these men. This is his story.
H. (Mike) Guttierez was the only son of Grandfather/Grand-mother
Guttierez and therefore was in a position to get a deferment, but he
chose not to. Mr. Guttierez had probably never traveled outside the
Valley, and in service to our country, he traveled the United States and
was even given a ticket to Europe. He was just about 18 years old when
he left the States. He was frightened, alarmed and bewildered at the
Guttierez had received a very short basic training and was sent to
fight the war as part of the 65th Infantry Division and attached to the
1290th Engr. Battalion; these units were in the European Theater of
Operations. He was a model soldier and readily obeyed all of his orders.
He will discuss the war with me, but in a very quiet voice and not in
the last 40-plus years of my marriage to his daughter, he has told me
of two significant events he experienced. The events are directly
related to each other. As I understand, his unit had crossed the Rhine
River and was advancing deep into Germany in pursuit of fleeing enemy
units that were in retreat. In one town, the unit’s advance was halted
by a very gifted German sniper. One soldier had stopped the attack by
his skill with his rifle; he held the high ground (bell tower), and the
U.S. troops could not bypass his position. My father-in-law spotted the
sniper’s nest and moved to a better vantage point. The soldier
immediately behind him was shot and killed by the sniper, and as the
sniper scanned for another target, Mike got in one shot with his M-1
Garand. Down the sniper tumbled, and the unit advanced on. Mike
Guttierez had never fired a big caliber rifle until basic training, but
the family at home had a .22 single shot rifle, which he used only for
Guttierez’s unit proceeded through the city, and upon advancing a few
more miles, it encountered a concentration camp, with survivors and
slave laborers captured by the Nazi machine. The memories of what they
found have faded over time, and he has forgotten many of the details.
Mike still despairs of the physical condition of the camp survivors and
the manner in which the Nazis handled people as if they were of no more
value than animals. The experience and appearance of the victims
prompted Mike and his unit to treat these folks to the best of their
and his fellow soldiers then became medics and caregivers for all those
people who had been rescued. They attended their duty faced with an
enormous language barrier as these folks were from across the spectrum
from virtually every European country crushed by the German war machine.
The unit did not have the means of communicating with them, but our
soldiers cared for and performed coordinated movements of people to
various countries via the war-ravaged transportation system that was
this time, the shooting war was over for the entire unit. Later, the
war in Europe ended. Private Guttierez and many others were rotated back
to the continental United States for additional training for the
Pacific Theater of Operations. It was early into the jungle warfare
training that the Japanese government agreed to unconditional surrender.
U.S. military (leaders) found that they no longer needed a large
standing army and proceeded to discharge and transport our soldiers to
their homes of record. The U.S. Army never thanked these brave soldiers,
and it is my belief that my father-in-law deserved at least a Bronze
Star for valor. He earned his Good Conduct Medal, service ribbons for
Euro-African and Italian campaigns, but more than that, he earned the
coveted Combat Infantry Badge, which depicts an infantry musket from the
Continental Army of the American Revolution on a blue background. This
is awarded only to soldiers who were under direct enemy gunfire for a
period of continuous combat. I am convinced that he and many other
minority soldiers were overlooked when valor awards were passed out.
Guttierez continues to live in Solomon. He and his first wife, Flora
Sanchez, had three beautiful daughters and, later in life with his third
wife, Ruth Blount, two strapping sons. Mike is and has always been a
true cowboy. In his younger days, he broke and trained his own ponies.
He was/is a member of the Gila Valley PRCA. He usually competed in calf
roping and team roping. He was very active in the association until he
began to experience cardiac problems. When he recovered, one of his
first actions was to saddle his horse and take her for a spin. He is
currently a young 87 years of age, and instead of riding a rocking
chair, he chooses to ride his horse.