Woman attends first Warrior's Weekend after tragedy (video)
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Victoria, TX 77902
Maria Cahue sat somberly by the roadside Friday afternoon, waiting for the soldiers to pass.
She wouldn't be able to see her beloved soldier march in a parade through the streets on Warrior's Weekend.
Lance Cpl. Christian Gutierrez died before he got the chance.
Gutierrez survived combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, but was killed in a wreck in Woodsboro on March, 31, 2011. He was 24.
Cahue's heart was too heavy to attend the festivities last year.
The 21-year-old Victoria resident honored Gutierrez at the Field of Honor at Faith Family Church. She mustered the courage to bring her 3-year-old daughter, Andrea Headrick, to keep Gutierrez's memory alive.
"Every time she sees a flag, she wants to buy one for her dad," Cahue said.
The mother of one knows about the sacrifices soldiers make on the front line.
"It's not pretty. I've seen a few pictures," she said. "He (Gutierrez) didn't love it, but he would do it again for his country."
Cahue made a red T-shirt that said "My Hero . R.I.P. Daddy." A picture of the father/daughter duo embracing was placed between the words.
"There's not a day that goes by when she doesn't talk about her dad. Hopefully she doesn't forget when she gets older."
The doting duo and thousands of others lined Mockingbird Lane to cheer for the nation's heroes as they arrived in Victoria for the Warrior's Weekend.
Ron Kocian and a host of volunteers created the weekend of festivities to honor wounded and fallen soldiers.
The men and women of service traveled from Kentucky, Kansas, Colorado, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas, as well as Walter Reed Hospital and Brooke Army Medical Center.
Some of the troops were escorted by police officers from Houston.
On Saturday, the soldiers will have a chance to fish, have a friendly competition, and receive awards in Port O'Connor.
As the red sirens blared through the clear blue sky, the crowd noise intensified.
Motorcycle passengers and spectators waved their flags with pride.
"I'm just here to honor the soldiers; they deserve it," said military wife Amanda Cude, 27, of Victoria.
Her husband, Specialist Michael Cude, was deployed twice to Iraq.
Although she's grateful to have her husband return home safely, she said he missed out on special moments.
"When he left, she was crawling, and when he came back, she was walking and talking," Cude said about her daughter, now 5.
Three generations of the Cude family cheered the caravan of buses.
Close to 300 veterans made strides in their crisp white shirts and hometown baseball caps.
Even the toughest soldier shed tears with a supporter's hug. Some members of the crowd shouted, "God bless you and welcome to Texas."
Staff Sgt. Andy Winzenburg heard great remarks about the Crossroads weekend of festivities.
The 42-year-old Minnesota native was injured in Iraq and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
"It feels awfully good to be here," said Winzenburg, who is based at Fort Riley, Kan.
Volunteer Mary Sue Nelson, of Victoria, embraced Winzenburg and thanked him for his sacrifices.
She asked the soldier, "Are you going to catch me a fish tomorrow?"
"I'll try to catch the biggest one I can," Winzenburg responded.
Although Cahue lost her beloved soldier, she shows her gratitude to others.
She even sends them care packages through the Adopt-a-Marine program. Cahue wanted to make her first Warrior's Weekend special for her little girl.
"We're going to stay out here as long as we can," she said.
It may have been her first Warrior's Weekend, but she said it won't be her last.