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Light Rain,51°
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Elmont Fire Dept. vets share memories

Jack Mildner remembers Elmont when it was mostly farmland. He remembers walking to school on the town’s dirt roads, passing the trees and marshes that were the only notable landmarks that lined his route. Things have changed considerably since then, of course — “tremendously,” Mildner says.

And the 83-year-old honorary chief and treasurer of the Elmont Fire Department remembers it all as if it were yesterday.

As he reminisced one day last week, Mildner, a 63-year veteran of the department who has seen many firefighters pass through the ranks, said that every person who is part of the team becomes like family, no matter how long or short their service. He described a sense of brotherhood in the department, saying that there is mutual respect among fire service veterans, some of whom Mildner grew up with and many of whom he has mentored.

Jimmy Snadecky, 61, a 41-year member of the department and a former chief, says he owes his success to Mildner. From day one, Snadecky said, he emulated Mildner, admiring his work ethic and steadfastness. “[Mildner] is why I got into the Department, mainly,” Snadecky said. “I owe everything to Jack. I’d watch him all the time, and any time the whistle would go off, he’d jump in his car and leave, [and] I’d try to chase him with my bicycle. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.”

Snadecky’s memory elicited laughter from other veterans of the department, who obviously could relate. Ray Ross, 70, a former captain, joined the department the same year as Snadecky. At the time, neither one anticipated the formation of such close-knit bonds that would last four decades. Friendship was expected; brotherhood was a bonus.

Most of the members of the department, past and present, join because they are inspired to be of service and because someone close to them is a member. Ross said it might as well be known as being “born into” the department. That’s what happened in his case, he said. After he married and got to know his wife’s aunts and uncles, who were involved in the department, he became interested as well. The rest is history.

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