No rescue call is too small for firefighter Andrew Gonzalez, who responded to a call immediately after coming home from a 10-month deployment in Qatar.
Gonzalez, a U.S. Army Specialist, was celebrated upon his return by friends, family, and co-workers on Feb. 11. The warm embrace by the community made him happy to be home again. And within 20 minutes of being home, Gonzalez, along with his fellow firefighters, went straight to a call.
“One of my favorite parts about coming home was being able to respond to a call with the guys again,” Gonzalez said. “It felt really good to be home again after 10 months.”
Lynbrook Fire Department Chief Christopher Kelly was glad to have Gonzalez back home. “The department is very grateful for firefighter Andrew Gonzalez’s safe return and commend him in his service to our great country,” Kelly said.
Capt. Brian Brown, of the Fire Truck Company, helped plan the surprise reunion between Gonzalez and his family.
“Brian Brown played a huge part of this celebration,” Gonzalez said. “He set up a ride for me to get to the airport to the firehouse. At the firehouse, they had two ladders up with an American flag draping down for an arch and then he planned the whole surprise for my family.”
Less than a half an hour after arriving to the firehouse, Gonzalez responded on a call regarding an automatic fire alarm. “It was something that I looked forward to while being deployed,” Gonzalez said. He enjoys the “community level” impacts he is able to make.
“Whether it’s a kid scrapping his knee, a grandmother needing to go to the hospital, or going into a burning building for someone, it’s nice to be able to have a positive impact on things in my community,” Gonzalez said.
On the flip side, Gonzalez had to deal with a wider scope of conflicts when he was deployed in Qatar. The military is on a larger scale than a local fire department. Gonzalez said he didn’t see these smaller incidents in Qatar that he’s so used to dealing with in Lynbrook.
Gonzalez entered the Army as a Specialist around the time the U.S. military was pulling out of Afghanistan. “Prior to my enlistment, there was a lot going on overseas,” he said. “I believe it was around the time when 13 marines were killed during the Afghanistan pull out. I kind of realized how strong the military is, how close they are, and how similar it is with the fire department, so I decided to branch out a little bit.”
During his deployment, Gonzalez conducted a military police operation for Afghan refugees. While deployed, he celebrated his three-year anniversary of being a firefighter. Handling both jobs can be “a little challenging at times,” but with the help of the Lynbrook Fire Department, it helps alleviate the stress.
“The fire department here in Lynbrook is very supportive of the military,” Gonzalez said. “So usually when I have something going on for the military, they’re very supportive of that.”
The military has taught Gonzalez to be more resilient and headstrong when dealing with local incidents. “The military helps me to train for stressful situations,” he said.
Gonzalez has dealt with a lot of stressful situations, but his most memorable moments at the Lynbrook Fire Department are during the holidays.
“Our Christmas rides, giving kids rides in the fire truck and seeing all their faces light up with Santa, is something that I have really enjoyed,” Gonzalez said.
Being a firefighter is a “dream come true” for Gonzalez. “It’s something that I’ve wanted to do since before I could even walk,” he said.