Submitted by Cate Berry for Washington National Guard

The majority of us go about our daily lives not giving much thought to this question. We see the military aircraft flying overhead and hear the thunder of Howitzer fire from time to time. Many even wave to our neighbors in uniform as they arrive home at the end of the day. But, unless we wear that uniform, most of us would have a hard time answering the question, “What does it mean to be a soldier?” Lacey resident Sergeant First Class Susie Lopez, Recruiter, Washington National Guard, has the answer.

SFC Susie Lopez Washington National Guard
Sgt. 1st Class Susie Lopez is a decorated soldier currently serving as a Recruiting and Retention NCO at the Lacey office of the Washington National Guard. Photo courtesy: Graham Berry, Berry Creative

Sgt. 1st Class Lopez was born and raised in Guam. When Typhoons Omar (1992) and Paka (1997) struck Guam, causing a combined $1.1 billion in damage with sustained winds of over 115 mph, a young Lopez witnessed the positive impact the National Guard had on her community. “They helped rescue the injured, clear debris and rebuild homes and businesses that were destroyed,” she says. “They made a real difference in the lives of the people of Guam. I knew then I wanted to be a part of their legacy.”

For the past twenty years, Lopez has served her country and embraced the core values of the Army and The National Guard – loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. While she has benefited from the many programs afforded military members – 100 percent tuition assistance, occupational training, travel, healthcare, discounts, etc. – Lopez believes the most satisfying aspect of her career is being a part of something bigger, making a real difference in the lives of others, and serving her country and the ideals upon which it was founded.

Lopez’s military career has taken her all over the world including Korea, Japan, Germany, Ireland, Saipan, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, the Netherlands, and across the United States and its territories. Her travels opened her eyes to the diversity of our world and awakened her desire to help others achieve their goals and realize their dreams. When asked what has been the most satisfying thing about her military career to date, Lopez responded, “Being able to mentor young people and help them reach their goals. I was blessed with some good leaders who supported me and challenged me to excel. I want to pay that forward.”

Lopez is a decorated soldier. She has been recognized for her selfless service at home and abroad, for her commitment to excellence, and for her professional development. She has achieved a few of her educational goals too. Recently she received her MBA from University of Phoenix and attained the designation Master Fitness Trainer through the military. For Lopez education is a lifelong journey and values the support and encouragement she receives from the National Guard to continue along the path of higher learning.

SFC Susie Lopez Washington National Guard
Sgt. 1st Class Lopez (left) with Lacey Resident April Tomiello (right). Lopez encourages family everyone to learn more about the great opportunities available for those seeking a rewarding career. Photo courtesy: Graham Berry, Berry Creative

This time of year is a busy one for recruiters like Lopez. Her Lacey National Guard Recruiting and Retention Team located at 8221 Martin Way SE, spends much of their time visiting schools, fielding inquiries, and counseling those about to finish high school on the benefits of being a part of the National Guard. For students going on to college, a paid education with the promise of a job after graduation is very attractive. For those looking for a career in a trade, or those unsure of what career path they want to pursue, the Guard offers over 130 career options that will build strength and character, provide valuable experience, and supply you with all the tools you need to be successful. The National Guard calls it “a path with a purpose,” a phrase that epitomizes the Guard’s core values and answers the question “what does it mean to be a soldier” perfectly.

To learn more, visit the Washington National Guard’s website, or contact Sgt. 1st Class Susie Lopez at 360-701-5468 or on Facebook.

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