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Aug 3, 2004

Heroic Bzean soldier returns home

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There are hundreds of Belizeans enlisted in armies around the globe who put their lives on the line everyday, determined to fulfil their duty and make their heritage proud. On Monday evening, one such solider returned home. There was no big welcoming committee to greet her, but for Private First Class, Lucy Lopez, to be home again after coming close to death was enough. News 5?s Jacqueline Woods has her story.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

Twenty-six year old Lucy Lopez is overjoyed to be home, even if it is only for twenty days. Lopez, a native of Punta Gorda Town, is a former Belize Defence Force Soldier who later immigrated to the United States in 1999 and joined the U.S. Army. Last January, private first class Lopez, a heavy equipment operator, went on her first major assignment when her unit was deployed to Iraq to help rebuild Baghdad?s airport.

Lucy Lopez, Decorated Belizean in U.S. Army

?Well its real bad over there because you know, you do not know who you can trust, what?s going on. They have trustees on the posts we live, on the camps and we have people who come on the camps and do other stuff for us like fix the roads, like help us do stuff and you can?t trust them sometimes because you don?t know what they have, what they have on them. But it?s real risky because everyday you got to get up and see if you are going to survive for the day.?

And then her worst fears were realized. On July third, 2003 Lopez was seriously injured after the humvee she was driving hit a land mine outside of Baghdad. Lopez says she was driving her platoon sergeant to the city when there was the first explosion.

Lucy Lopez

?Well what I saw was there were six dogs on the side of the road and they crossed to the other side of the road and they blew up, they blew up and I got scared and I did not know what had happened. Then shortly after it hit our humvee and I did not know that it was that at the time, I thought it was my tires that had blown and had a flat or something. Then I felt all this stuff in my face, all that stuff in my neck and everywhere, but I wasn?t scared at the time because I did not know what happen. It was like five minutes after I was shocked, I was crying, I threw my weapon down, which was bad, but I was you know scared, I was crying, I wanted to come home, but they wouldn?t let me but it was scary.?

?They started to take out shrapnel from my neck, from my face, my arms, my legs and everything and it?s like you need to sit down because you are bleeding very bad and I couldn?t hear them. My left ear is still bad right now because of the explosion. It was like smoke, thick smoke we could not see nothing so we fired back, but it?s like we were firing after nothing because we could not see nobody the smoke was so thick, you could not seeing nobody in the thick smoke.?

For her wounds she received in action, Lopez was awarded the Purple Heart and under an executive order signed by President George Bush following 9/11, immigrants with green cards serving in the U.S. military become immediately eligible for U.S. citizenship. Now an American, Lopez has decided to keep her Belizean citizenship. Today, Lopez says she continues to recover from her injuries but is happy to be alive and able to reunite with family and friends.

Lucy Lopez

?Well right now, I can?t lift heavy things because my right arm is messed up, my shoulder and I have shrapnel right now around my leg and I have shrapnel in my neck, but you can?t see it because I have this stuff on and my eye right here.?

But once a soldier, always a soldier and although she did not want to serve another year in Iraq, Lopez has already received word that she will be going back in four months time.

Lucy Lopez

?Being over here I am just trying to enjoy myself because I am going back in November.?

Jacqueline Woods

? How are you looking forward to that??

Lucy Lopez

?Well I am trying to get out of it, but I am a soldier twenty four seven so even if it doesn?t work out because next year July I get out. I was trying to stay home so I don?t have to go over there, but its more than six months so I will have to go.?

Jacqueline Woods for News Five.

Lopez says she is looking forward to meeting her former comrades in Belize Defence Force. If you would like to contact Lucy Lopez she can be reached at telephone number 702?2406.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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