In February 1996, Minerva Aponte was working as an assistant station manager in Fort Stewart, Georgia, when she received a one year tour assignment to South Korea with the American Red Cross. She had no idea then how this opportunity would change her life.
After arriving in Camp Howze, Korea, Aponte soon met with members of the Armed Services assigned to the 46th Engineer Battalion. Major Israel Reyes was quickly introduced to the new Red Cross station manager, since they shared something in common: both were native from the island of Puerto Rico!
Reyes served as the battalion executive officer and worked professionally alongside Aponte, supporting the Red Cross office during staff meetings, briefings to the soldiers, and military events such as the celebration of the Hispanic Heritage Month Luncheon. Working together, the two developed a close professional and friendly relationship. Unfortunately, Aponte’s Korea tour ended before his in February 1997, when she then returned to the states.
Aponte and Reyes stayed in touch and eventually became involved in a long distant relationship. Then in 2003, while Lieutenant Colonel Reyes was serving as the commander of the ROTC program at the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez Campus, the two decided to tie the knot. Aponte resigned from her position at the Armed Forces Emergency Services Center and moved to Puerto Rico to be with her future husband.
In 2004, Aponte returned to her volunteer services for the Red Cross in Puerto Rico, working as the director of Service to the Armed Forces for the American Red Cross Puerto Rico Chapter.
Today, Reyes is a retired Lieutenant Colonel from the U.S. Army and works as a professor of Military Science for the ROTC program at the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez Campus. Meanwhile, Aponte has completed 20 years of Red Cross service and is back where she started with the organization, as a Red Cross volunteer.
Throughout the years, the couple has continued to share the same passion for service, both making time to volunteer with the Red Cross – the organization that brought them together in South Korea nearly two decades ago. Together, Aponte and Reyes have seven children and eight grandchildren.
Learn more about Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces.