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Veteran group leader dies

Staff file photo / R. Michael Semple
U.S. Army veteran Gary Gutelius of Warren, president of Disabled American Veterans, Trumbull County Veterans Services, decorates a veteran’s grave at Pineview Memorial Park on May 28, 2021. Gutelius died Saturday on his 74th birthday.

WARREN — A local Army veteran who honored other veterans daily died Saturday on his 74th birthday, according to Herm Breuer, director of the Trumbull County Veterans Services Commission.

Gary Gutelius, of Warren, led the effort every year to decorate veterans’ graves at local cemeteries for Memorial Day and Veterans Day. He was featured in June 2005 as part of the Tribune Chronicle’s veterans profile series and also was honored as a Tribune Chronicle Community Star in 2014.

A post on the Trumbull County Veterans Services Commission’s Facebook page paid tribute to Gutelius on Saturday: “To start out this post by saying ‘with great sadness’ would not do it justice. The world has lost a hero, growing up in Warren, a lifelong ‘Westsider.’ He served in the jungles of Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division. He went to work at Packard Electric and served on their veterans committee. He served in so many roles and was involved with many veterans organizations. He headed up the Veterans Day and Memorial Day committee for Trumbull County year after year. He became a veterans service commissioner in 2013 and represented DAV Chapter 11.”

David Luther of Howland, chaplain for the American Legion Post 700, said news of Gutelius’ death “has shaken the whole veterans community.

“He was a veteran’s friend and will be dearly missed,” Luther said Sunday by telephone. “I don’t know how we will replace him. He has big shoes to fill, but I am sure the Lord will provide someone to guide us.”

Luther said Gutelius called him many times to ask him to do invocations for veteran funerals and other services, and sometimes “just to talk.

“He meant a lot to local veterans and the community,” Luther said. “He took a lot of veterans’ issues on his shoulders, and he will be missed.”

Gutelius accompanied Breuer in 2018 to place a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery on the 100th anniversary of Veterans Day.

Gutelius served in Vietnam. One of the first missions Gutelius went on came soon after he arrived in country. He said he and about nine others were hiding in a graveyard when the enemy came out at an angle they weren’t expecting. The soldiers knew if they went through with the attack, their own deaths almost certainly were likely.

“We stayed very quiet, and they passed within about 10 feet of us,” Gutelius said during a 2005 interview. “We would have been killed.”

His unit had many duties. As part of an air rifle platoon, Gutelius was in a helicopter nearly every day of the 14 months he served. The soldiers went in after downed helicopter pilots, were involved in long-range reconnaissance patrols, ambushes, village sweeps and other missions.

He was wounded at the Battle of Hamburger Hill, a 10-day battle fought during the three-phased Operation Apache Snow, which was a campaign to destroy North Vietnamese Army bases in the A Shau Valley.

As enemy rockets were fired early one morning, Gutelius dropped to the ground. When he stood up again, a small tree that had stood between him and another soldier was gone. Gutelius suffered an injury to his left arm, and his friend was seriously wounded, he said during the 2005 interview.

Gutelius received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his service.

He had no wife or children, but he has nieces and nephews in the area, Breuer said. Arrangements are pending at Carl W. Hall Funeral Home in Warren.

Breuer, who was at a veterans conference in Washington, D.C., over the weekend, said he planned to accompany the family today to finalize details of Gutelius’ funeral.

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