Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"Vet Packs" – helping those who served our country

• Plans to grow project, develop website, establish partnerships

By Rebecca Bell
Dean of Community Relations & Special Events

Moriyah Gutierrez was born less than a year after her father Michael returned home from his U.S. Army commitment. Within 28 days after her birth, her mother left the young family, leaving Michael to raise Moriyah on his own. The father and daughter formed a strong bond, and Michael instilled the ideals of patriotism and commitment to country in his daughter.

In 2001, after being on his own as a single dad for about six years, Michael Gutierrez remarried. His new wife Carrie took over the role of mother to Moriyah effortlessly. Today, Michael and Carrie have two other children, Faith (age 9) and Tristan (age 8). Michael is quick to explain that the couple’s first commitment is to their children.

Today, Moriyah is a student at Early College High School at Midland College (ECHS@MC), and for the past two years, she has been working to collect backpacks and supplies for military veteran students at Midland College. She devotes approximately 150 hours each month to her “Vet Pack” project, and she says she enjoys every minute of it.

“My dad always taught me that one of the most precious things in life is our country and the freedoms we have as American citizens,” stated Moriyah. “He’s told me stories about his time in the Army, and I know that it was hard for him to transition back to civilian life. The vet packs are just a small way that I can say ‘thank you’ to the men and women who served our country in the military.”

Moriyah continued, “I know that finances can be strained for our veterans when they are starting to college, and backpacks and supplies can be expensive. As a dependent of a veteran, I am a member of the MC Veterans Association. Some of the veteran students have told me that they have to ask themselves the question, ‘Do I buy a backpack and school supplies for me, or food for my family.’ I hope that the vet packs will help to alleviate some of their financial burden.”

Moriyah is now in her junior year at ECHS@MC, and most of her classes are college courses. Like most ECHS@MC students, she will graduate from high school with both a high school diploma and an associate degree from Midland College. In addition to keeping up with her ECHS@MC studies and devoting time to Vet Packs, Moriyah Gutierrez also works part-time at Golf Course Road Church of Christ Children’s Center and volunteers at Casa de Amigos, Honor Flight and the SHARE program. Moriyah said that the SHARE program, which provides assistance to families with learning and physically disabled children, is very dear to her heart because her younger brother Tristan is autistic.

Michael beams when talking about his teenage daughter and stated, “I am so proud of Moriyah. Carrie and I believe that it is important to have a strong foundation with God, and we want our children to have that same foundation. With so much ugliness in the world now, we are very proud of the person Moriyah is and is growing into every day. We pray it is a constant reminder to her that amid all of the trouble in the world, there will always be light.”

”My dad always taught me to have a ‘game plan,’ so I do,” said Moriyah. “After I graduate from ECHS in May 2018, I want to go to West Point, major in obstetrics/gynecology and eventually be a part of the U.S. Army Medical Corps.”

As for the immediate future, Moriyah will continue to grow her Vet Pack project. She is developing a website and is working to partner with an office supply retailer like Staples or Office Depot. She orders the backpacks, valued at $20-$30 each, in bulk in order to save costs. For more information or to donate toward the project, contact Moriyah Guiterrez at (432) 894-4075, mgut600@gmail.com

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