Shawn Lopez is the program manager for the Purple Knight Initiative (PKI), Knight Federal’s internship program for wounded warriors. In this role he gets great pleasure to serve the nation’s combat veterans by providing them with paid internships and training that help reintegrate them into future successful careers. As a wounded veteran and graduate of the program, he is able to have firsthand knowledge on what these heroes face when they transition from active duty and integrate back into the workforce. This relatable experience propels Lopez to excel and find passion in the new career path he has chosen to follow.
“I am so grateful to Knight Federal, it has given me the opportunity to intern at the Joint Staff J7 after having served in the U.S. Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Battalion – East. This was an amazing experience that launched my current career and allows me to leverage my experience to ease their stress of transitioning and the feeling that they are alone in pursuing the next chapter of their lives,” says Lopez.
Lopez came on board at Knight Federal in July 2016. He was working in Charleston, South Carolina and communicating with his mentor Tim Baker, PKI Director, voicing his unhappiness with his current location and role. Baker told Lopez about a new company that was energetic and young that just became part of the Joint Staff Support team. He asked Lopez to reconsider moving back to Suffolk, VA where there could be a potential opportunity. Lopez recalls immediately recognizing the potential opportunity and took the advice to contact Matt Herring, Knight Federal’s Director of Programs. Herring reassured Lopez that they were not just about filling roles for work awarded, but their mission was to THRIVE as a team. After that call, Knight Federal hired Lopez as a communications technician for the Joint Staff Deployable Communications Shop. There he supported the Joint Exercises Division, as all areas support major simulated exercises for the Joint Staff J7.
“Having a CEO who stands by his employee’s and creates/supports a team environment is a huge plus to this job and company. Since the day I met Chris Baeten he welcomed me and supported me in all of my goals. He heard my story and said we can do more. Having a boss that has never served in the military, but yet understands the struggles of our veterans is highly respectable as a leadership trait in my eyes. Knowing that he supports the veteran community at work and within the community makes me proud to work with him. Knight federal has become family to me,” says Lopez.
Moving forward Lopez hopes to become one of the leaders of Knight Federal in business development, with the coaching of Herring and Baeten. He continues to learn about its customers, teammates and the overall operations and business goals of Knight Federal.
Lopez has a distinguished military career. He joined the US Marine Corps in 2007. After graduating from Marine Corps recruit training Depot, Lopez was assigned to 2D Battalion 2D Marine Regiment, 2D Marine Division Camp Lejeune North Carolina. He served two tours in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. While serving in Afghanistan, Lopez received wounds from combat and was awarded the Purple Heart along with the Navy and Marine Corps Accommodation Medal with Valor. Lopez medically retired from the Marine Corps in 2012, and now has two children Shawn Jr. and Mia Lopez. He is attending Saint Leo University to pursue a degree in Business Administration. Lopez is involved in the community and currently serves on board of directors and as Tampa chapter president for Operation WetVet. Additionally, he volunteers with Project Therapy at Sea’s “Taking Combat Veterans from Front Lines to tight lines!” – whose mission is to get Combat Wounded Veterans that suffer from P.T.S.D. together to enjoy a fun day of fishing and therapy along with counseling as needed. In his spare time, Lopez enjoys fishing, rock climbing, skydiving, motivational speaking and spending time with his kids. He also enjoys traveling.
Lopez’s words of wisdom for others: “People think the grass is greener on the other side. What they don’t realize is what it took to turn green. First you need to plow the land, then you plant the seeds, next you water it and feed it. In order to feed it, you have to grab the manure and throw it in front of you and walk through it. This process must be repeated over and over. Bottom line – it takes hard work, dedication, consistency, and commitment. At the end you will have grass. People can go one of two ways – are you going to continue looking over the fence, or are you going to grow your own grass? Stay hungry and do the work – hard work – it’s worth it in the end!”