tv NBC Bay Area News NBC September 7, 2014 9:00pm-9:31pm PDT
this is a lotteetter. a letter written to the 49ers to express undying love and respect. it was sealed and mailed. just like any other letter. but its origin will touch you, like it touched us. and the journey behind the letter starts where our journey begins. in el paso, texas. >> we didn't have a vehicle. we lived about an hour away. he would take the bus. the bus would leave him about 20 minutes away from our house and he would just walk. he would walk the rest of the time. he would show up at my door step and i would say, that was like two hours -- two, three hours. he would say, i'm here, right? yes. so, that brought me more, you know, closer to him. he was willing to walk those extra miles for me. so, that was love. >> going the extra mile, that is what this story is all about. going the extra mile for the one
you love, for your family, your hometown, your friends and for your country. >> i grew up here in el paso. this is my hometown. been here ever since. and that's one of the main reasons that i joined the national guard, so i could represent texas and help out my city as well. >> he always talked about that he wanted to enlist. and i would say, no, don't do it. but, he had to go. >> my grandpa was -- he was in the navy. he served world war ii. my uncle was in the marines. my other uncle was in the army. i learn what had honor was. the dedication they put in. i wanted to keep on that tradition. ♪ >> like many americans, inspiration and emotion led them to serve.
there are over 2 million active servicemen and women who have pledge the themselves to the defense of this great country. each with their own story. sergeant gutierrez's story began when our nation was attacked at 8:46 a.m., september 11, 2001. >> at that time, a lot of americans enlisted to fight for their country. >> he wants to help people out. so, he did it. he just likes to help people out. its his nature. >> so many things to say about him. he's outgoing. he's just a great guy overall. >> there are not too many words to explain my uncle. he did a lot for us. we didn't have a lot. >> to me, he's my brother. he's now my brother-in-law. he means that much to me. >> today when i have a problem, i get on the phone and guti.
no matter what he's going through, he'll drop it and help me out. >> he's good to be around. we barbecue together. he's the brisket guy. i'm the rib guy. >> i don't understand how that huge heart of his fits in his body. >> he's the same person in uniform as out of uniform. >> if he was having a bad day or a bad week, you really wouldn't know it. he's got a personality that really does help everyone around him. on a job like this, it's invaluable to have. >> he's what we want in the military. great soldier. great american. >> high praise from incredible people. that's how alfredo gutierrez is described. his love for people and the military isn't alone. his faithfulness to the people in uniform spans across to yet another uniform. that of the red and gold. and in el paso, texas, that can be met with mixed opinion. >> a team in el paso is pretty
much the cowboys. >> no question america's team, the dallas cowboys. >> this is cowboy nation. he always liked the niners. i tried to change him. i'm like, come with a real team, america's team. but, nah. >> for my uncle to be a 49er fan, that's pretty braifr of him. >> the think about the niners is they never quit. something special about the niners, they always have heart and they always pull through. >> ever since i have rooted for the 49ers. >> he'll be a 49er fan till he dies. his kids are 49ers. >> ever since i met him he's a niner fan. he brought that into my family. he introduced me to the team and ever since then, you know, we watch the games together. >> i mean, i remember one time when we were younger, it was halloween and he dressed up as jerry rice. >> we didn't have no costumes. i'm always been a hard core cowboy fan and he's been a hard core niner fan. we had our jerseys. we go as jerry rice. then as a cowboy fan, i got more
kaen candy, of course. >> he's been a 49er since i can remember. >> he would need to be born again because he's not going to be a cowboy fan no matter what. >> loyalty, dedication, that's sergeant gutierrez's way of life. for a young man from the lone star state, life was about to change. as he prepared for life in uniform, he was also preparing to take his brand of loyalty and dedication overseas as a united states soldier. >> i had great ncos that taught me to be the next great leader. and i was ready.
sergeant gutierrez hails from el paso, texas. he committed to defend the united states when he joined the national guard at age 25. it wasn't until he was deployed in 2008 that the reality of his situation became a true understanding of his faithfulness. >> when you're outside the wire, you will know who is who. when i got hit -- >> april 22nd. i remember it well. >> our main mission wases to
escort supplies from north iraq to south iraq and provide security for those trucks as well. >> and we were headed north to an area known as the widowmaker. >> the widowmaker, that's what they called it. it was overpasses. you had houses right next to the freeway. people burning trash. so, the air was smokey. it was a congested place but a good place for the enemy to set up ieds or do anything to try to attack us as we're going through the bottle neck. >> ahead of that, i knew something was going to happen. but i really kept my guard. >> you couldn't hear anything which heightened our sense of alertness. it was too quiet. it was basically too good to be
true. >> we had a mine-resistant vehicle. we could absorb motion. you're talking about a big, thick structure. it was heart for that vehicle to be hit. i had my weapon at 3:00. i stood up from my seat to look for my 6:00, make sure the convoy was in the pack. >> as we were approaching a base, it was around 2:00 in the morning, our vehicle got hit by efp. >> then there was a couple of quakes and it was inside out. once the charge set, it turns back into a fear. will go through any type of metal like butter. >> i was in the rear of the convoy when the ied went off.
yeah, it was chaos. i've never seen the blast first and then i heard the explosions later. >> heard the loud boom. sharp metal. >> and the heat took out the front engine block. >> it knocked me back. i felt unconscious for a couple minutes. i couldn't hear. didn't know what was going on. i didn't know if anybody in the cabin was hit. i saw the fire from the engine. >> as it's happening, it seems like everything is slow motion. the smoke filled the vehicle. it was hard to breathe. you hear yelling. >> everything comes to your mind, everything from your childhood to your loved ones. you just know you might lose it. >> the one thing i remember the most is the nerves and the rush all at once. >> organized chaos, if you want to call it that.
>> yeah, there's fear. i'm not going to deny that. but then, you know, you don't let your emotions take that much control over you. you focus on what's going on. >> then it snaps back to reality and then things start to speed up. you do what you got to do. once your accountability is good and everyone is okay, then you move on. >> our main job as a gunner was to make sure that the whole crew got out safe. so i held my ground. i waited, i waited. and i was just waiting for the worst. >> that dark night, on that dark strip of highway, no american lives were lost. united states strikeforces
arrived in time via blackhawks and assisted their band of brothers, securing the u.s. troops and returning them safely to a nearby base. but the events that took place that evening would send shock waves through the gutierrez family. and those shock waves were felt on the homeland, along with uncertainty and heart ache. >> they told me he had suffered injuries and, you know, he had a concussion and he was medevac'd with a couple of his friends, but that he couldn't give me any more information. so i just lost it. like, called my mom and i just started crying because i didn't know if, you know, how bad he was or if he was going to make it, if he was going to come home. >> and we were thinking the worst. we were thinking that, you know, there was a possibility that we were going to lose our, you know, friend. >> but the hardest was knowing that the word was going to go out and my wife was going to know.
and i wasn't there. >> early in the morning, i have a call and i thought it was somebody, you know, from there. and it was freddie. just hearing his voice was, like, heaven to me. like, i just wanted to know that he was okay. i wanted to hear that he was okay. >> i was crying. i say i missed you. i thought you were hurt. >> although he was rattled, like the leader he had trained to be, he remained strong. after he received treatment locally, he decide the that the morale of his group, the mission and the commitment he made to his country was priority. he decided to stay. and finish his tour.
>> we had a mission to do. you know, it's hard to lose one soldier. i kept on going. >> receiving the purple heart for injuries sustained in battle, sergeant alfredo gutierrez, like those he stood beside in battle, proved that the team was more important than the individual. through sleepless nights, quiet fear and haunting visions, he would complete his mission and head home to texas. but he would never be the same. >> you can't have a bad memory and store it elsewhere and just hide it, delete it. it was stuck for me. and it will always be stuck. just like in life, you have -- you have challenges, but you also have tools to get you by. and one of those tools is watching the game. watching my team. since i was here at home and i
had time to recover and enjoy every game. my family saw that i was a different person. either win or lose, the reaction to focusing on the game instead of my injuries, instead of what happened. for once, i felt human. i felt relaxed. my family saw that and they started getting closer and my son started watching the game with me. it helped a lot. it helped a lot.
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within his group. awarded the purple heart for his sacrifice, he headed home to el paso, texas, where he found a new type of therapy to help him heal his physical and emotional wounds. for this humble serviceman, that became a heavy dose of red and gold and it would not go unrewarded. >> what can i do to have them understand that it's not just a game? they're role models. coach harbaugh is a great leader. you know, if he was in the battlefield, he would be a great nco. and i wrote the letter. >> to jim harbaugh and the san francisco 49ers. i'm happy to say i have been a san francisco fan since joe montana took the field. one thing i have learned about the 49er players through the years is that they have played with heart. the team has learned and worked together and now you are on your way. in 2004 i made a decision to
join the texas national guard, to battle the war on terror. in april 2009 i was injured. i suffered first-degree burns and had to resign my commission as a deputy ending my military career. therefore, i had to start over. but with the support of my family, i refused to give up. by rawatching you guys play, coming back from hard losses and playing each game with a lot of heart has made me do the same. i'm proud and honored to say i'm a wounded warrior but also a san francisco 49er fan. i'm sending you my purple heart because your team has played with heart and with that, nobody can stop you. sincerely, sergeant alfredo gutierrez. >> everything came out straight from the heart. and i sent them the greatest award, which was my purple heart. >> with his purple heart shipped to the bay area, the 49ers' would not be held down. the team's front office connected with him and thought it was time to reunite the
sergeant with the medal he had so bravely earned. but he would have to come to candlestick park, along with his wife christie and their children leroy and april, to retrieve it. >> i was speechless. i was out -- i was out the door. the first thing i did, i called the wifey. told them, they're inviting us to san francisco. >> they want to fly us over there because i gave them my purple heart. >> she was shocked. >> i said, you gave them what? >> the organization wanted to do something that would show or express their appreciation. it just so happened to be during veterans day. >> we couldn't believe it. when we were walking into the field, the smell of the grass, it reminded me when i was playing high school football. seeing the expression of my kids, it was beautiful. when they told me that coach harbaugh wanted to see me, i was in shock. and i shook his hand. i was in tears. i said, coach, you have no idea
how -- how this team helped me out. after that, we went down on a knee, we prayed and coach harbaugh told me, my soldier. i was in the middle of the whole 49ers. they gave me a box with my purple heart. and they also gave me to the game. >> he didn't do it for anybody. he did it for his favorite team. he loves them. like, he -- that's his therapy. thank god.
there's nothing like being in the military. there's a bond that is created with the soldiers that you become close and intimate with. it is a sacrifice. it's a tremendous sacrifice to serve. what people fail to understand is when bullets fly, they have no names on them. >> i grew up with two sisters. no brothers. when i joined the national guard, that was more than enough brothers. >> i was born into two types of families. the one i was born into, of course, and the one i was niched. >> you have your family.
of course you miss your kids and wife, but they help you get through the deployment. >> no matter where you're at, have you that brotherhood. you find another soldier. they make you feel at home. no mattery you're at. >> it's a great feeling to put on this uniform. it's something you work very hard to earn. >> it's a brotherhood you'll never forget. i'm out of uniform now, but 20, 30 years down the line, i'll still remember these guys and they'll always be a part of my life. >> when you're in combat, you make lifelong friends. friends that are there for you, thick and thin. that's what we are. we're one big family. i'm there for them. they're there for me. they're my family. and i love them all for that.
terry mcsweeney. >> i'm peggy bunker. we're on right now because of sunday night football. a shocking mountain lion attack has a 6-year-old boy recovering tonight. authorities trying to figure out exactly why the mountain lion attacked. according to deputyings, the mountain lion pounced on the boy in the middle of a family hike. this happened today near pichetti winery in coupe tino. we're joined live at the trail head. this is where the experts now are searching for the lion. marianne? >> reporter: that's true, peggy. this is a trail where the boy was attacked about a mile from here. we are next to pichetti winery in cupertino. we have just learned that the mountain lion attacked the boy with nine other people just a few feet away. several trails in the mountains of cupertino are closed after a mountain lion attacked a 6-year-old boy around 1:00 this afternoon. he was walking with his parents on this trail near pichetti winery. about a quarter mile from this spot. >> the cat did make contact with the