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Driven to serve: Tucson man becoming Naval officer

An officer candidate after 11 years enlisted
Posted at 7:14 PM, Sep 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-22 12:03:14-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — It’s a big change to go from a desert town like Tucson, to a warship at sea but a Tucson man, and Cholla High graduate, has dedicated his life to the Navy. Now he’s about to climb to a new level of leadership.

This is the second time Victor Mendez Lopez volunteered for a grueling Navy Boot Camp. The first was when he joined the Navy eleven years ago. Now he’s in Newport, Rhode Island, a few days away from completing the training that will promote him from enlisted sailor to officer.

It was hard even getting to Officer Candidate School. Mendez-Lopez graduated from Tucson’s Cholla High in 2008. But the Navy wants officers to have college degrees.

“So I had to attend college and get my college degree, my bachelor's degree while I was on active duty. That was very challenging because you know I was working a full time schedule on board a ship which was very difficult.”

He applied, and waited. One day his commanding officer called him in.

“He said, ‘Sit down. Do you know why you're here?’ I had no idea. I thought maybe there was some sort of mistake made or there was something that had to get fixed in the workplace, but he just shook my hand and said. ‘Congratulations, you've been selected for Officer Candidate School’, and that was in the proudest moment of my career so far at a professional level.”

As an enlisted sailor Mendez-Lopez already had years of experience in information warfare-- maintaining sophisticated systems and defending them against cyber attack. He could have walked away from the Navy and into a well paying job.

“I was offered a good, good position at Raytheon right there in Tucson actually but as I said it's my desire to serve the country. I want to give back. My parents were first generation immigrants, and I'm very grateful to this country. I'm very grateful for all the opportunities that were given to us. So, despite the opportunities in the private sector, my place is here serving the country.”

Soon, he’ll graduate from officer training and lead other sailors in the new battlefields of the computer age. He’s planning a long voyage ahead, staying with the Navy all the way to retirement, then looking for new ways to serve.

“After I get out I still plan to serve my country or maybe my community, I would like to do something down in Tucson and give back to my community, maybe volunteer at that level. So, my plan is just to continue to serve and give back for as long as I can.”

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