The men and women who wear the Coast Guard uniform are often the subject of public admiration – and even the occasional Hollywood blockbuster, for putting their lives on the line to protect the homeland and save lives at sea. But, these everyday heroes couldn’t carry out their duties without the support of the more than 10,000 civilian employees who are behind-the-scenes on shore.
For more than a decade, Miriam Lopez has been a member of Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, directly impacting the thousands of Coast Guard personnel and their families who have served at the unit since 1999.
As the procurement clerk for the air station’s morale, well-being and recreation department, Lopez is responsible for coordinating morale activities, supporting the child development center and helping new families transition into the unit and the unfamiliarity of island life on Puerto Rico.
Lopez’s efforts to make the island feel like home – including her famous Super Bowl parties and Coast Guard Day celebrations, has made her somewhat of a local hero. In fact, her role securing the Caribbean’s largest water park as the location for annual Coast Guard Day celebrations made her an instant celebrity with the more than 500 Coast guard members, dependents, interagency partners and area residents who attend.
“It makes me feel great that, at the end of the day, they really appreciate the work I do, even though it is behind the curtains,” said Lopez. “It makes me feel good that I am able to make the island a home for them, especially when their spouse is deployed. They still come and feel welcome.”
Lopez knows a thing or two about being a Coast Guard spouse. She met her husband, retired chief petty officer Ricardo Negron, at the air station when he was a petty officer 2nd class. It is perhaps that personal connection to the service which drove Lopez to voluntarily take on the additional duties of the MWR department’s accountant for the past year as the unit looks for a replacement, juggling her already heavy workload with keeping a $1.2-million budget on track.
“Mrs. Lopez’s professionalism, commitment and willingness to go well above and beyond the scope of her job description ensured the continued success of the Air Station Borinquen MWR department,” said Capt. Melvin Bouboulis, former commanding officer of Air Station Borinquen. “[She has] brought unlimited value to the unit and its wide-ranging military and interagency family.”
When we think of a Coast Guard air station, our mind’s eye instantly fills with visions of rescue helicopters, rescue swimmers and families being reunited with loved ones pulled from the sea. But, for those who have had the privilege of serving at Air Station Borinquen, that image likely includes a Coast Guard spouse who decided to stick around long after her husband retired to serve the community and extended family that she loves.
“I really appreciate the thank you’s I receive [from Coast Guard families],” said Lopez. “That is all I need.”