USAG Grafenwoehr celebrates Month of the Military Child

VILSECK, Germany -- As someone who describes herself as "adventurous," Alex Andrea Lopez, 16, fits in well with the on-the-go military lifestyle.

"I'm an adrenaline baby. I really like to take risks and do the out-of-the-box stuff," she said. "I hate normal."

Born in Fort Hood, Texas, Lopez has spent her entire life as a military child. After bouncing between Texas, Kentucky and Colorado for a few years, Lopez and her family moved to Germany in 2005, when she turned 10. They made it to U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr in 2007, where her father, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Joseph Lopez, joined the 172nd Infantry Brigade.

Now, as a high school junior, Lopez has made a name for herself as an inveterate jock, playing volleyball, basketball and softball. Of the three sports, softball, where she plays third base and shortstop, is her passion. She attributes this affection to her dad, a baseball wiz who instilled a love of the game into Lopez and her three siblings.

"It's pretty much our family sport," she said.

Lopez hopes to pursue softball in college. With her eye on University of Texas at Austin and University of Texas at San Antonio, Lopez has started the process of drawing the attention of athletic scouts. As an upper-classman, she now has the opportunity to make game reels and compile newspaper clippings displaying her deftness on the field.

Though her immediate focus lies in softball, Lopez has already honed in on a loftier goal as a pilot in the Air Force.

"My office is going to be in the sky," said Lopez.

She explained that her career goals have always veered skyward. As a child fascinated by the stars, Lopez dreamed of becoming an astronaut. Later, she and her family had the luck of being the only passengers on a space-available flight from Germany to the United States. The pilot took them inside the cockpit where they could see the clouds puffing by.

"I knew I wanted to be up there," said Lopez.

The prospect of leaving both her family and Germany behind as she becomes a collegiate athlete or pilot saddens Lopez. The second oldest of four children, Lopez comes from a tight-knit family and enjoys a "really strong relationship" with her mom, Maria Veronica Lopez, a substitute teacher in the garrison community.

The best advice she could give to younger military children is to cultivate a meaningful and durable bond with their family.

"Hold onto your family," she said. "Don't try to fight because at the end of the day, they will be there. They're the greatest gift you'll ever have."

The Lopez family dreads the time when they will have to leave Germany, their home for the past seven years.

"We don't know how we're going to live without Germany," explained Lopez. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The greatest years of my life were over here."