Gulf war affecting families in South Lake |

Gulf war affecting families in South Lake

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily TribuneSouth Lake Tahoe resident Jose Gutierrez holds a photograph of his only daughter, Cynthia. She is a naval officer deployed in the Persian Gulf.

With a hand around her photograph, Jose Gutierrez kept his back straight with pride and avoided being sentimental about his only daughter.

Cynthia Gutierrez, 25, joined the Navy after she graduated from South Tahoe High School in 1995. She works in radar or communications, Jose is not sure which one, aboard the USS Saipan, a vessel in the Persian Gulf acting as a launchpad for helicopters and small military planes.

The Saipan left for the Gulf with Gutierrez on board at the end of January. Before that she trained at a naval base in Norfolk, Va.

Gutierrez decided to join the military when she was 17.

“At 17, she told me she wanted to go,” Jose said. “I said maybe. Then OK, OK. I signed the papers.”

Cynthia telephoned her parents at 4 a.m. on Wednesday. She said it would be the last time she could call them for a while. The call lasted about 3 minutes, only long enough for her mother, Graciela, 62, and Jose, 60, to ask her what and how she was doing.

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“She said, ‘No, I can’t say anything about it,'” Jose said.

Cynthia visited South Lake Tahoe at the end of December. She went snowboarding and visited with friends like Claudia Andersen, who graduated from high school with Cynthia and served four years in the Navy.

“She’s the one who convinced me to join the Navy,” Andersen said. “With people like Cynthia over there we have nothing to worry about. They take their job very seriously and are very dedicated to what they do.”

Cynthia joined the Navy in part to help cover the cost of college. She served two years in the military then left to attend Oregon State University where she graduated last summer with a degree in sociology.

Cynthia still owes four years to the Navy. After that, her father says, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in criminology, with an eye on landing a job at the FBI or another law enforcement agency.

Despite his daughter’s tendency to choose dangerous careers, Jose opts to support Cynthia “100 percent” instead of spending all his time worrying about her.

“I pray, but she chose to go,” he said. “I support her in anything she wants to do.”

Jose moved from Guanajuato, Mexico, to Los Angeles in 1966. Cynthia was born in Los Angeles in 1977 and her family later moved to Riverside, Calif. Jose, a cook at Denny’s, was transferred from Riverside to South Lake Tahoe in 1988.

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at