Hispanic heritage and devotion to military service runs deep for this Puerto Rican family

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Nancy Goldberger
  • 116th Air Control Wing
It’s often said the Air National Guard is more like a family — that’s literally the case for the Lopez family where mother, son, and daughter serve together in the Georgia Air National Guard’s 116th Air Control Wing at Robins Air Force Base.
It was a few years after Ernesto Lopez Jr. and his wife Joanna had their oldest son and daughter that they moved from Puerto Rico to the continental United States. They both wanted to join the military some years earlier. Then Ernesto enlisted, and they decided Joanna would stay home and raise their children.
Encouraged by his father, now a Sergeant Major in the U.S. Army, Senior Airman Ernesto Lopez-Falcon was the first of the Lopez-Falcon children to join the military in 2016 where he works as a services specialist in the 116th Force Support Squadron.
When the recruiter called looking for her son, now Airman 1st Class Joanna Lopez, an operations management specialist with the 116th Civil Engineer Squadron, took the message, and on a whim asked what the age limit for joining the Air Guard was. She was a few weeks shy of the 40-year age limit cut-off.
Within a matter of weeks, the mother of three took the oath of enlistment joining the ranks of the 116th Air Control Wing with her son. What had been a lost dream 20 years prior, became a reality when Joanna followed in her son’s footsteps enlisting in the Guard.
“I was shocked at first,” said her son. “I was there the day she swore in too. I thought, ‘this is something else.’ ”
When she arrived at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, for basic military training, she was ready to begin the fulfillment of her dream – her experience as a mother paid off as she found herself the oldest Airman in her flight filling a motherly role to her fellow Airmen.
“When I went to basic and first put my uniform on, I looked at myself in the mirror and said, ‘this is me.’ ” shared Airman 1st Class Lopez.
Inspired by her mother’s bold move, Airman Basic Jennifer Lopez-Falcon followed her mother and brother, joining the Georgia Air Guard in August 2018 after a semester of college, she explained.
“My mom had just gotten out of basic training, and I needed something exciting,” she said. “I went in the Guard because I still wanted to continue school.”
Currently she serves as a material management specialist in the 116th Logistics Readiness Squadron while pursuing her degree.
“Since the first day I got here, everyone has been so welcoming,” she said. “It’s good to come to work and feel I’m still at home, that this is still family.”
With four of the five immediate family members enlisted in the U.S. Armed Forces, serving is in the DNA of this military family. They are proud of both their Hispanic heritage and their devotion to duty shared Airman 1st Class Joanna Lopez.