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Life less ordinary: Becoming Marine parents

Joan Gutierrez has a replaced hip and her husband, Jesse, has a rebuilt knee, but the two will participate Sunday in the Marine Corps Marathon 10K in Washington, D.C., to raise money for Purple Heart Family Support, one of the outreach programs of MarineParents.com Inc.

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October 22, 2008
By CATHERINE ANN VELASCO

The two joined MarineParents.com when their son, Cpl. Jay Gutierrez, 25, a 2001 Providence Catholic High graduate, enlisted in the U.S. Marines in 2004.

"We are not a military family in that we don't have a background in it," said Jesse, a retired teacher from Hufford Junior High. "It's a real change in your perspective because his mother is a confirmed pacifist and his father is a former Peace Corps volunteer so ... our son turns out to be a Marine."

Through the Web site for parents of Marine soldiers, Joan and Jesse, of Joliet, found support. Now, Joan is director of online support services for MarineParents.com, helping parents learn the ropes of being a Marine parent via message boards. The Web site gets 12 million hits per week.

"We help them transition, grow and learn about the Marine Corps and boot camp and turn into Marine parents because you change when your child enlists into the Marine Corps," said Joan, a retired resource specialist from Joliet Grade School District.

"I've been a more patient, giving person," Joan said. "I've always loved my country, but my love for my country is magnified much deeper."

Jesse agreed.

"All you have to do is travel to other countries to really find out how good you have it," he said. "I traveled extensively to the eastern Caribbean and South America and there is no place like the USA,"

Now, Jesse and Jay plan to run in the 10K while Joan walks in order to raise $2,000 for the Purple Heart Family Support, an outreach of MarineParents.com that has tugged at their hearts.

The mission is to provide support to the families waiting at the bedside of their injured or ill Marines and sailors by providing meals during the weekends at hospitals.

"There is not much available to them on the weekends. ... It's not like you want to travel and go out to dinner so we cater in food twice a month," Joan said. "These families are all hurting and they are all struggling but they don't even have a chance to see each other or communicate with each other. So this gives them the time to connect with each other which makes it less lonely."

To donate online, http://www.teammarineparents.com/2008-mcm10k-Gutierrez.asp or write checks payable to MarineParents.com Inc. Put "Team Gut" in the memo field of the check. Send to: MarineParents.com Inc., c/o Team Marine Parents, P.O. Box 1115, Columbia, MO 65205

"Jay will run the 10K. He will be running a bit more as he runs between his old-timer parents," Joan said. "He will be running and then running back to check on mom."