Rise of Hitler has parallels to today

By Jacqueline Robinson - Staff Reporter

Even though he was ready for a change, Highline's Issac Gutierrez says there's much he misses about the Marine Corps.

He said he misses the amplified sense of personal and companywide organization.

Small habits, such a walking with his hands in his pockets, eating outside of a cafeteria, and wearing hats indoors, are hard for him to pick back up, he said.

In the Marines, he would address others as "sir" and said he feels offended when the same display of respect isn't reciprocated in civilian life.

"I've just been out for a year, but I feel like I'm always walking on eggshells," Gutierrez said.

Moreover, he misses the strong sense of camaraderie, which can be hard to find in the civilian world, he said.

Gutierrez, 25, was a corporal and a jet engine mechanic working to get aircraft ready for flight.  

He said he was usually on call 24 hours for every day of the week.  He often worked 12-hour days.

After five years, he said he wanted to see what else he could do with his life, so he left the military.

Now he's taking courses to transfer to the University of Washington, where he said he may study psychology.

"It's hard to wrap my head around how some people's brains work," Gutierrez said.

Currently, he is a representative in Veterans Services, where students who served in the military are assisted in navigating college.

The office is also an unofficial clubhouse and support group where Highline veterans say they feel at ease.

"It's been helping me with the transition," Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez moved to the United States when he was 10 and as he grew older, he said he felt alienated from family in Mexico and people that didn't view him as American.

"I'm a Mexican-American, so it's just hard to fit in in any culture.  You're not really accepted," Gutierrez said.

"I wanted to join a brotherhood, a family and the Marine Corps was what that was for me," he said.  "So I joined right out of high school."

Despite family members who called him a traitor to Mexico, he said he applied for permanent United States resident status to join the military.

Racial discrimination largely disappeared from his mindset because of Marine Corps training, Gutierrez said.

"You get mentally broken down," he said.

"One of the first things that they told us in boot camp was 'I don't care if you're black, or white'," he said.  "'The man to your left and your right, that's who's gonna be your fighting buddy.  That's who's gonna be in the foxhole with you.  So you better learn to get rid of all that'."

The Marines currently practice an equal opportunity program which encourages equal treatment of all servicemen regardless of color, race, religion, or national origin.

Commanders are expected to build camaraderie within their team by setting an example of unprejudiced actions and investigating reported and observed offenses, according to the Marine Corps Equal Opportunity Manual that is given to them.  

"Discrimination undermines morale, reduces combat readiness and prevents maximum utilization and development of the Marine Corps' most valuable asset, its 'people'," according to the manual.

Gutierrez said Marines advance on merit and not because of their race.

"The more you prove yourself, the more you come up in rank," he said.  "You get accepted."

According to the equal opportunity manual, race must not be a qualifying factor for promotion.

Gutierrez said that when Marines went on leave, reminders of racial discrimination in the civilian world reappeared.

He said his colleagues would say, "'You know I can never bring you home because my family is super racist.  But you know you're my brother'."

Currently, the percentage of white, African American and Latino active duty, full-time service, Marines, published by the Marine Corps, approximately mirror the same demographics of the United States population.

Approximately 62 percent of the United States is white alone, not including white Latinos, and approximately 66 percent of active duty Marines are white.

Thirteen percent of the United States is African American, compared to 11 percent in the Marines.

Eighteen percent of the United States is Latino, compared to 17 percent in the Marines.

Nevertheless, racial prejudice is amplified in the civilian world because differences are labeled, Gutierrez said.

He said he hasn't experienced racial discrimination directed toward him "per se" since he left the Marines, but he hears it in the opinions of younger Highline students during class.

"For the most part, I never felt like I fit in like I did in the military."

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