Family can't afford to have late military father's remains transported

Virginia Gutierrez

Like most daughters, Virginia Gutierrez is particularly proud of her father.

"My dad was my world and he meant so much to me," she said.

Rolando Gutierrez served in the Vietnam War with the Navy.

"He loved serving his country," Virginia said. "He served it with all his heart. He fought for his country."

The Purple Heart recipient continued his military career with the National Guard for 2 decades.

Virginia says her father, a Mission High graduate, dedicated his life to this country.

But it's his role as grandfather to Christopher, Virginia's son, which stands out the most to her.

"It was very hard for me and my son," she said.

That's because Rolando had to leave their Harlingen home in 2009 due to dementia.

The debilitating disease took over his mind and forced him to seek help upstate at a specialized nursing home.

Virginia remembers what she missed the most.

"Not spending the holidays with him anymore," she said. "The first Thanksgiving, it was difficult because he would be the one to clean out the turkey."

This past weekend Virginia received a call that her dad had passed away in Knox City, Texas due to complications from dementia.

He was 65-years-old.

"I feel empty," Virginia said. "I feel alone."

And she feels helpless because Virginia admits she's doesn't have the money to bring her father's body to the Rio Grande Valley for a proper military funeral.

"I live on a tight budget," she said while crying. "It's just me and my son. I lost my mom 9-and-a-half years ago and now my dad. I just want to have a proper funeral for my dad. The proper goodbyes."

The good times are now overshadowed by financial stress.

Virginia can't control her tears for a father who she says deserves honored, eternal rest.

Action 4 News made several phone calls to help Virginia with her Call 4 Action.

America's Last Patrol offered to transport the body from a mortuary with Smith Family Funeral Home in Abilene, TX to the Valley.

"We need to do our part for this man who dedicated his life for this country," Commander Ricardo Pena said.

Heavenly Grace Funeral Home in La Feria stepped up to cover the costs for a funeral and offered to make arrangements for a military burial at the Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery in Mission.

Funeral Director Jon Pitts tells Action 4 News that he is working with Virginia to obtain the proper discharge papers for the military burial.

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