Customs pilot Herman Cestero had not seen his family since they evacuated to the United States the day after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico.
Cestero's wife and two young children flew to Corpus Christi on a Border Protection plane, leaving behind their flooded home, damaged school, and devastated Island.
Three weeks later the same plane carried Cestero from Puerto Rico to Texas to reunite with his family.
Cestero says knowing his family is safe allows him to focus on hurricane relief and rebuilding Puerto Rico.
CORPUS CHRISTI -
Customs and Border Protection agents are a big part of the effort to help people in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. For Customs pilot Herman Cestero, the mission is personal. When Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, it hit close to home for Cestero, literally. Puerto Rico is is home.
He made the trip only after working around the clock on hurricane relief.
"This was really your own people, they need you," said Cestero, an Air Unit Exchanger for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. "I think everybody felt that way, that if you were resting or taking a break you weren't helping somebody. So it was it was like get back in the cockpit, get launched, find another mission,"
It is why the father of four, a Customs pilot for 15 years, felt compelled to stay, even when his family evacuated to Texas.
The day after the storm, Cestero's wife Audelia, his 13-year-old Anna, and 5-year-old Joaquin got on a Border Protection plane. They flew to NAS Corpus Christi, far from their flooded home, destroyed school, and devastated island.
"Have the kids in school, and the biggest help was I didn't have to worry about them," Cestero said. "I could dedicate myself to flying."
However now, three weeks, later, the same plane that carried Cestero's children to Texas went back to their hometown, Aguadilla, to pick up their dad.
"After flying for almost three weeks just constantly, it was finally time to take a break and come back and get my family settled," Cestero said.
After a five hour flight, he landed in Corpus Christi, then made his way to his mom's home in San Angelo to see his family for the first time since the storm.
The family's future is uncertain. All Cestero knows is that he has just two short weeks with his wife and kids before returning to Puerto Rico. But he does not mind, because those are also his people.
"I will continue to work for the Island, I love that Island, I grew up on that Island," he said.
And he will do his part to rebuild.
"If you know you can eat, you know that you can take your kids to the doctor, then you can now turn yourself to the job of fixing the island," Cestero said. "Everybody has a part to play."
Many families of agents stationed in Puerto Rico have been moved to Florida. It unclear how long these families will be displaced.
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