‘Balance’ key for military couple as they serve, sacrifice, retire together

By Salvatore Ottaviano | 99th Readiness Division | Jan. 22, 2021

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. —

There are not too many like Alvin and Yara Lopez. This husband-and-wife team have worked together as both Soldiers and civilians for more than 20 years while managing a 17-year marriage with two children. They both officially retired together on Dec. 31, 2020.

The time was right for Yara, after 22 years in uniform, to spend more time with family.

“I gave the Army, I feel, everything I could, and now it’s our time to give it back to our sons, give it back to each other and back to our family, to balance now, and try to go enjoy life now that we have weekends off and less of a commitment,” said Yara, who retired as a sergeant first class.

“Army Values are extremely important ever since we started in the military,” said Alvin, who retired as a major. “We have changed our lives, coming from poverty to what we are today, but you also need to know when to let go. So let’s say, for example, my retirement; we made a family decision that it was the right time, the right moment to finish and close that chapter and now be just a straight Department of the Army civilian, being able to help all the Soldiers…to support the Army mission on a daily basis.”

When asked to consider the consistency of successful careers in the Army in uniform and as civilians, as well as having a successful relationship and marriage together, Yara and Alvin were very thankful for all of the blessings in their lives.

“We’ve been together for a very long time,” said Alvin. “It’s also almost 29 years [in uniform] for me. I wouldn’t change anything because every single step that we took in our lives took us to today. Successful careers on both the military and civilian side.”

He cites a type of steadiness in how they handled their priorities through the years.

“Family is the most important thing for both of us, along with our careers,” Alvin said. “We’ve been blessed in having been able to have both kind of balance each other. You gotta keep a balance. If you keep them balanced, then it’s a pretty good chance that you’re going to be successful in all three [civilian career, military career and family].”

“I think that it all came about with a lot of sacrifices throughout the way,” Yara said. “Sacrifices in our personal life, but also on the military side - we’ve been separated many times by the Army, but we always found our way back to be together.

“[Our two boys] knew that when they didn’t have mom home, eventually she would come home, and when they didn’t have their father home, eventually he would come back home,” she continued. “I think that we were able to balance it. We learned to live in that way.

“I think that it’s very hard on children at first, but they’re very resilient,” she added. “They learned to live the ‘Army Way’ as we did when we first joined.”

“We are very grateful for everything that the Army had offered to us and grateful for the experiences and the way that we learned to be successful in life,” Alvin said.

They’ll continue working as civilians for the 99th Readiness Division using their passion for their work.

“I’m very grateful to the 99th RD. It’s been the best unit in all of my years of service,” Alvin said. “This is the best unit I have ever been in. It has a lot of opportunities; we support the 13 northeast states and over 42,000 Soldiers on a daily basis. We feel very proud of serving this whole area here.”

You can take the Soldiers out of the Army, but you can’t take the Army out of the Soldiers.

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