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Hero for All – SFC Charlie Pepinrivera Awarded for His Service

By Melissa Green | Citizens Bank Staff

In the normally quiet neighborhood of Cleveland Heights, hundreds of excited volunteers and community members lined the street, waving flags and cheering the arrival of Sergeant First Class Charlie Pepinrivera and family. A procession of veterans, firefighters, and community organizations led the Pepinrivera family to their newly renovated home provided by Citizens Bank — the home that they would see for the first time.

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Serving the nation

Soldiers join the Army for any number of reasons; some are chasing adventure, while others are following family tradition. For Charlie, it was a calling. “I was called to serve, and I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself,” he says. Following his sense of duty, Charlie first enlisted in the Puerto Rico National Guard in January 1993, where he served for four years before transferring to active duty in the United States Army. During his 24-year military career, Charlie was deployed multiple times to Kuwait, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. “It was hard, but I wouldn’t change it,” remembers Charlie. “I fell off a helicopter during a mission, I was shot, an IED exploded during a convoy … I’m blessed to be alive.”

Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.

While overseas, Charlie displayed acts of bravery and leadership that earned him several military awards, including: The Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, NATO Medal, and Combat Action Badge. 

It’s no secret that soldiers can often face a difficult transition following a deployment. Charlie’s been physically and emotionally recovering with the support of his wife Maribel and their six children: Joseph (22), Mariela (22), Joyce (19), Gabriel (18), Joimar (16), and Jonnel (13). “Deployment takes a toll on your mind and body; I’m so glad I have Maribel and a strong support system,” says Charlie.

Serving the community

Charlie and Maribel are no strangers to selfless service, one of the Army’s core values. “Hawaii has a severe issue with homelessness, so when we were stationed there we would go down to the beach, fire up the grill and feed anyone who was hungry,” says Charlie. The couple volunteered for the Meals on Wheels program, which brings meals to elderly people unable to leave their homes. They even founded a nonprofit called “Mission to Minister” which helped provide and connect people with community resources. “We would help individuals find housing, transportation, gain access to medical care…we just wanted to help fill the void,” says Charlie. 

“Growing up in Puerto Rico was hard, we didn’t have much. So being able to help others is something very special to me, to us,” says Charlie as he smiles at his wife.

Moving forward

As a decorated war hero, Charlie and his family are working together to transition into civilian life. Although he doesn’t wear a uniform anymore, Charlie’s mission hasn’t changed. “Family is everything to me,” says Charlie. “I want to be a leader they can all be proud of, and serve my community.” Living in Cleveland allows the Pepinriveras to be closer to their friends and extended family. “When you’re in the military, you move around a lot, and it’s hard to establish and maintain close friendships, so I’m happy to settle down. I’m so excited to be in Cleveland,” says Maribel as she smiles at her husband. 

The hard work and dedication displayed by Charlie and Maribel have been instrumental in increasing the morale and quality of life for those who are less fortunate; now it’s time for us to help them. In addition to the mortgage-free home, Charlie and Maribel will receive three years of financial literacy and debt management coaching through the Military Warriors Support Foundation. 

“Things like this don’t happen every day,” says a tearful Maribel. “We’ve been trying to buy a home for a couple of years, and for one reason or another it wasn’t happening for us. It’s been hard, but now I know why; this opportunity was our blessing and we couldn’t be more grateful.”

Military Warriors Support Foundation

At Citizens Bank, we’re proud to partner with the Military Warriors Support Foundation (MWSF) to give combat wounded veterans and their families a place to call home. The MWSF’s program works with corporate partners, like us, who donate mortgage-free homes so that these heroes and their families can focus on settling back into their lives as civilians.

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