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The family that deploys together, stays together

Most parents never know what it’s like for their children at a deployed location, but that is certainly not the case for Senior Airman Vincent Lopez, an A-10 weapons loader, since his father and stepmother are also deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (Courtesy photo)

Most parents never know what it’s like for their children at a deployed location, but that is certainly not the case for Senior Airman Vincent Lopez, an A-10 weapons loader, since his father and stepmother are also deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (Courtesy photo)

Most parents never know what it’s like for their children at a deployed location, but that is certainly not the case for Senior Airman Vincent Lopez, an A-10 weapons loader, since his father and stepmother are also deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (Courtesy photo)

Most parents never know what it’s like for their children at a deployed location, but that is certainly not the case for Senior Airman Vincent Lopez, an A-10 weapons loader, since his father and stepmother are also deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (Courtesy photo)

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan -- Most parents never know what it's like for their children at a deployed location, but that is certainly not the case for Senior Airman Vincent Lopez, an A-10 weapons loader, since his father and stepmother are also deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

The Lopez family is originally from El Paso, Texas and Airman Lopez's parents both work for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service in Dallas. Tony and Julia Lopez were deploying to another location in the area of operations when they were redirected mid-flight to Bagram about a month ago. Airman Lopez, who had been here since April, had no idea his parents were here until he got an email message from his father telling him the news, simply saying, "Hey, guess what? I'm here at Bagram."

Senior Airman Lopez headed to the Base Exchange as quickly as possible, talked to the employees and arranged to meet up with his dad. "To be honest, this is the last place I'd ever think I'd see them," said Airman Lopez.

Although their schedules are challenging to coordinate, they meet up at least once a week at the BX or for meals where they can catch up on each other's experiences. "It's a relief for my parents to know that I'm doing ok, and it's really a unique experience for all of us," said Airman Lopez with a smile.

Who has the tougher assignment is up to debate, but the Lopez parents will be here for a year, while their son may be here six months. Tony and Julie, as AAFES employees, follow the same rules as military members and also work long hours. Tony Lopez insists his son has the more challenging assignment. "He is the one that has a harder time and that's really my job to bring anything familiar we can to these guys from home, and in some cases that may even be a family member," he said happily.

It's not that difficult for Airman Lopez because he likes working on A-10s."I love my job. There are not too many jobs in the civilian world, where you can load bombs on aircraft," said Lopez.

The Lopez parents haven't been to Davis-Monthan Air Force base, Airman Lopez' home station, because they usually meet up halfway at El Paso, to catch up with family and friends, so it's ironic that they've been able to visit with him here while he is stationed at Bagram.

"As a parent, the safety, security and environment is always on your mind," said Tony Lopez. "It's great that I can see what the conditions are and I know his team has really taken good care of him."

Airman Lopez agrees, "It's great to have family here with me; it's made my deployment so much better."