By Senior Airman Mercedes Taylor
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – In times of adversity, many turn to their families for emotional support. Loved ones become safety nets when one of their own faces strife. But what does a person do when his family is in jeopardy on an island thousands of miles away?
Airman 1st Class Kenny Rivera Rojas, 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, responded to his family by offering his helping hands to not just his family, but the entire Puerto Rican population, by helping maintain aircraft headed to Hurricane Maria for aeromedical evacuation missions.
Rivera Rojas’s family is part of the 3.4 million people in Puerto Rico affected by Hurricane Maria. They reside in the city of Canovanas, Puerto Rico, 30 minutes away from San Juan. Rivera Rojas’s only way to contact them is through his sister, who works at San Juan Luis Munoz Marin Airport.
“They mean the world to me,” Rivera Rojas said. “I’m very close to everyone, even my extended family. “Although my sister hasn’t gotten the chance to talk to them, I try to call at least once a day. Since there isn’t electricity, all I hear is the phone ring. They don’t know I’m here.”
The challenges his family is facing is the same as other Puerto Ricans who are struggling to find food, water and gas. So far, the U.S. territory has received support from federal and private agencies.
“It’s heartwarming to see people donate to help so much,” Rivera Rojas said. “I didn’t think there was going to be the amount of support there is.”
So far, Rivera Rojas has contributed to maintenance operations supporting responding aircraft by aiding in flight pre-checks and loading supplies onto aircraft headed to Puerto Rico and will continue to do so as long as he can.
“Until I see my family again, I’m willing to do anything in my power to make sure they’re OK,” he said. “I’m here. I’m doing my best to help out and be there. I love you.”