Local sailor comes home

TV Hagenah

A Tucumcari sailor, David Lopez, has returned to town. After traveling throughout the Pacific and Indian oceans as well as the Persian Gulf, Lopez says he is enjoying interacting with family and friends while he is in Tucumcari.

Lopez, a 2000 graduate of Tucumcari High School who is serving as Master of Arms on board the U.S.S. Peleliu, an amphibious assault ship, said while his most recent tour was interesting, he is happy to be back in New Mexico and especially Tucumcari.

His recent tour took 200 days and saw him visit such ports as Hawaii, Singapore, Guam and the United Arab Emirates. It also saw him taking part in drug interdiction.

“We took part in capturing a boat full drugs,” said Lopez. “The drugs were to fund terrorists. We blew it up. There was $11 million worth of hashish in it.”

Lopez said the drug interdiction was definitely the high point of his tour but the low point, he said, was being constantly absent from his family.

“Yeah, I missed my family most,” said Lopez about the long days aboard ship. He said he kept himself occupied by simply keeping his mind off being so far away from home. “I kept busy and worked out in the gym.”

Now back on leave in Tucumcari, the sailor said he is maintaining a pretty low-key existence.

“Basically, I’m watching TV and walking around barefoot,” said Lopez. “I didn’t get to do that much on board the ship.”

The Peleliu serves as a troop transport. In addition to its regular crew of 1,500 sailors, it carries 2,000 marines. While in the Persian Gulf, the Peleliu would drop off the Marines at a location and then return to pick them up in anywhere between one and five weeks.

He said that despite spending time around the Persian Gulf, the only death during the entire tour came on the American island of Guam when a Marine died after a tank fell as they were unloading it.