Valley Veteran Helped Change Outcome in World War II

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WESLACO – A Rio Grande Valley World War II veteran was honored in New York this week. 

The very active 96-year-old Eugene Gutierrez is hard to keep up with. 

"Until about a year ago or six months ago; I used to do 50, 60, 70 sometimes 100 pushups,” said Gutierrez.

He was part of an elite force of Americans and Canadians in World War II. He showed us is memorabilia from the war of a “potato smasher” or a German Grenade.

"That's a potato masher,” he pointed out. "Got that from some of the German prisoners.”

The first special service force is considered to be the special forces of today. 

"We were the first ones to have for example the flamethrower and the bazooka also,” said Gutierrez. 

Gutierrez's unit was nicked named as the Devil's Brigade by German soldiers.

"The Devil’s Brigade came as surprise to us because they found a diary in a German officer. That he had written that when night time came, they were so nervous because they claim black devils were coming out at night they couldn't see them or hear them,” said Gutierrez. 

Gutierrez said the brigade took over several strongholds in the mountains of Italy and in France.  He remembers his time and rescues behind enemy lines. One memory remains strong, he said, when he rescued a comrade.

“I had to go through a lot of German artillery and a lot of small arms, attacks. I had to crawl a lot until I got to him. I had a helper with me. We put him on a stretcher and brought him back,” said Gutierrez. 

He maintains the same disciplines in civilian life he had during his service. Time made no difference.

"I learned a lot of hardships you go through. You have to learn how to deal with them and not turn your back and give up,” he said.

Gutierrez went from combat fields to a McAllen papaya garden in his backyard, to firearms and then a fishing boat. He’s married 66 years ago and became a teacher and principal. 

In 2015, Gutierrez and his brothers in arms received the Congressional Gold Medal in Washington, D.C.

Gutierrez finished his latest military assignment in New York City. 

He presented these v-42 knives to the United States Army’s 5th Special Forces group, Central Intelligence Agency and the September 11 Memorial and Museum. Each knife was made of steel from the world trade center. 

Gutierrez said out of 1,800 men in the Devil's Brigade only 21 are left.

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