Passion for work, service moves veteran to volunteer in Puerto Rico after hurricane

July 19, 2018 - 9:34 am

By Antonieta Rico

Lina Lopez is not intimidated by challenges. As a generator mechanic in the Army she got used to often being the lone woman around, and after getting out of the Army she went right back into another male-dominated field: construction, working as an electrician.    

“I always liked working with my hands and I don’t see myself working in an office,” Lopez said. “I have a strong passion for what I do for a living.”

Photo courtesy of Lina Lopez

Lopez said that as a woman she has to prove to her male colleagues that she belongs in the job and can do the work, but she said she is stubborn.

“I like challenges and this type of work is a big challenge,” Lopez said. A challenge that she has been meeting for almost 20 years on the job, and which she plans to continue meeting as long as she can. She said she will work as an electrician “until I drop dead, it's my passion doing electrical work, I don't see myself doing anything else.” 

Recently, Lopez was able to combine her passion for her work and her passion for service when she traveled to Puerto Rico on a volunteer trip to help rebuild the island, which is still recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in late 2017. The hurricane caused billions in damage and left almost the entire island without power.  

From June 17 to June 30, Lopez, part of a group of 15 construction union tradespeople, joined students from the City University of New York to work in the community known as La Playita in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to rebuild houses left in shambles after the hurricane. They helped rebuild houses, roofs and did some electrical work. In the two weeks they were there, they helped rebuild 14 houses and 16 roofs, Lopez said. 

“The people of (Puerto Rico) welcomed us with their open arms,” Lopez said. “They are resilient and determined to rebuild their homes on their island.”

This was Lopez’s second volunteer trip to the island, she previously traveled to Puerto Rico in October, soon after Hurricane Maria hit in September 2017. Lopez said she jumped at the chance to help when her union asked for volunteers to go to Puerto Rico.

“When I got the call to donate two weeks of my time to help my fellow Americans, I didn't hesitate to put my name in the volunteer list to deploy to (Puerto Rico). Since they were looking for bilingual volunteers, I immediately made my mind to go and help as much as I could,” Lopez said.

She said her time in the Army was part of what motivated her to volunteer in Puerto Rico.

“When I was leaving the Army, I encountered many beautiful people that helped me through some tough times, so in return I try to help anyone in any possible way I can,” Lopez said.

It was that support from others that helped her transition, including support from her family, her friends and veteran service organizations, as well as seeking out resources in her community. Lopez encourages other veterans to reach out as they transition out of the military.

“Don't be afraid to ask for help,” Lopez said.

In collaboration with the Service Women’s Action Network, we are featuring an inspiring woman veteran each month.

    Contact us about this article or share your story at gethelp@connectingvets.com​