News: Lifeliner Spotlight: Carlos Lorenzo
Story by Spc. Michael Vanpool
PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – “We treat [fallen heros] with dignity, reverence and respect, which is how they should go home,” said Spc. Carlos Lorenzo, a mortuary affairs specialist at the Mortuary Affairs Collection Point – Bagram.
Although Lorenzo, a member of the 54th Quartermaster Company, based out of Fort Lee, Va., began his current deployment two weeks ago, deployments and mobilizations are all too common for the Aguada, Puerto Rico, native.
Lorenzo said he first enlisted in the Army nearly eleven years ago with the desire to stay close to home and serve with the 311th Quartermaster Company, a reserve mortuary affairs unit located in Puerto Rico which was only a 20 mile drive from his home. In order for this to be possible, he was told he would need to enlist as a mortuary affairs specialist. It wasn’t until advanced individualized training that he realized what his new career involved. He takes comfort knowing he is providing an important duty in caring for the fallen.
A few months after beginning drills with the 311th QM Company, the company was mobilized to Washington, D.C., to care for the fallen after terrorists flew a jet into the Pentagon.
“In September 2001, I went to the Pentagon and helped the FBI recover remains,” he said. “It was my first job, and it was rough. But, it was nice working with the FBI.”
After a 60-day mobilization, the 311th mobilized from Puerto Rico to various locations for annual reserve training.
“For the annual training, we went to a lot of different places,” Lorezno said. “In 2004, I went to Germany to help with embalming.
In 2005, I went to Aberdeen Proving Grounds to work at the JPED.” The JPED, or Joint Personal Effects Depot, is where a fallen hero’s belongings are sent before returning to families. “We inventoried, washed clothes and sent personal items back to families.”
Just a week after getting married in 2006, Lorenzo was on his way overseas to Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, to work at the MACP. He points out the BAF he knew five years ago, was vastly different from its current conditions.
After completing his first tour in Afghanistan and returning home to Puerto Rico, Lorenzo’s initial contract was up. To spend more time with his family, he entered the inactive reserves to complete his eight years of military service. However, after a couple years, his life-direction pointed to the Army again.
“In Puerto Rico right now, it’s hard to find a job,” Lorenzo said. “The first thing that came into my mind was the Army. I have two kids, and I knew the benefits would help them, like housing and medical care.”
This time, he turned his sights to active duty.
“I think active is more professional in everything,” he said. “We’re doing training more often than the reserves.”
Instead of changing careers like many soldiers reentering the military, Lorenzo chose to continue with his job as a mortuary affairs specialist.
“The recruiter offered a different job but I like this,” he said.
Since going on active duty in February 2009, Lorenzo has deployed to Mosul, Iraq for six months; a typical deployment for mortuary affairs soldiers, and for the past few weeks, he’s back in a familiar place performing the solemn duty he’s done throughout his Army career; caring for the nation’s fallen heroes.