(This is the third article in a five part series on Puerto Rico, the people who came to support the response and recovery, and their homecoming. Part 3 covers the Blue Roof mission, with the Dec. 4 deadline for submitting Right of Entry forms rapidly approaching.)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Homecoming is an American fall tradition, full of festivities, excitement and reunions. For several U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employees originally from Puerto Rico, homecoming has been a different experience this year.

Greg Aponte is a civil engineer and planner from New York District, where he works on coastal engineering, beach nourishment and riverine watershed studies. He leads a cadre of 25 inspectors who visit hurricane-damaged homes to determine their eligibility for temporary roofing.

On a mid-November morning, Aponte, who spent his youth in San Juan, drove to a neighborhood in Carolina where Roberto Clemente grew up.

He spoke with Lizette Rosario, a municipal legislator and community leader, who stayed in her home as Hurricane Maria passed and helped Aponte identify areas where temporary roof inspections were needed.

Rosario said her experience helping with the blue roof program is completely different from her legislative duties.

"I deal directly with the community now," she said in Spanish. "I go house to house to see what the situation is, to see what they need. Then I contact the municipality."

Rosario said she worries about the continuing effects of weather on the local residents' ability to move back into or stay in their homes.

"It rains a lot here," she said. "The blue roofs are very important."

Aponte's next stop a few blocks away was the first structure he worked on, inspecting the temporary roof installation himself. The resident, an elderly man with broken leg, sat in a chair in a darkened home, still strewn with hurricane debris. He also rode out Maria in his home, which left it with no roof, doors or windows. Aponte wanted to check in on him, to see how he was doing.

"We look for people not able to get out for one reason or another," Aponte said.

After delivering a box lunch, he moved on.

Aponte says his crew has inspected about 1,000 homes for temporary roofs. He estimates it generally takes about a week from the time an inspection in an urban area is completed until crews arrive to install a roof. It's longer in the mountains.

"Weather has an impact. Roads have an impact," he said. "Up here, it can take two to three weeks, maybe more."

"We're often the first responders people up here see," he said as he drove narrow, winding roads up the hills to Santa Cruz "We work with local emergency services for advice on which areas to visit."

He stopped at what was left of one home.

A raised foundation held a 12- by 15-foot section, what used to be a child's room, still standing. Aponte worked with the owner, advising that repairs to that section would allow them to install a blue roof. That one room will soon become the family's home.

"We try to help," Aponte said. "We don't want to just leave people there."

(One of the most visible USACE missions for the Hurricane Maria response is that of power restoration. The next installment discusses how a USACE employee's previous employment with the Puerto Rico Electric and Power Authority helped.)