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Firefighter honored for helping veteran in need

Jesse Simpson, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, was named Firefighter of the Year after helping a veteran who suffered heavy damage to his home


By Jim Walsh
East Valley Tribune

MESA, Ariz. — Mesa firefighter Jesse Simpson, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, knew he had to do something, anything, to help “George,” a fellow veteran who had lost everything.

In May, Simpson’s crew found George sitting on a toilet in a rundown west Mesa apartment that had been heavily damaged when a maintenance crew accidentally struck a water pipe, causing a flood.

“Pieces of drywall hit him in the head. That was the last straw. Everything was ruined,” Simpson said. “He said he suffered from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). We tried to calm him down.”

When he got off shift, Simpson bought George, a U.S. Army veteran, breakfast and emailed a list of veterans’ services to George’s daughter. That extra step of human caring earned Simpson the Arizona Fire Firefighter of the Year Award for 2017.

“I saw him as a person who has nothing,” said Simpson, 28. “He’s a person who deserves respect. I wanted to show him someone cares.”

Simpson has been a Mesa firefighter for nearly three years. Before that, he served four years in the Marine Corps, where his duty included combat in Afghanistan. He said he came from a rough upbringing in Iowa, where he often was a burden on his single mother, while she struggled to raise four children.

Simpson, who admits he had some behavioral problems as a boy that often got him into trouble, praises a mentor for helping him turn his life around. He has started a nonprofit charity of his own, calmfitcomplete.org, which encourages veterans to serve as mentors. He said serving as a mentor helps veterans realize their worth to society and improves their transition from military service to civilian life.

At the same time, Simpson remembers his own struggles as a boy and wants military mentors to help other children in need of direction.

“I hope I can motivate other firefighters and people in general to do good, to pick someone up when they are down,” Simpson said.

Daniel Matlick, president of the United Fire Equipment Co. in Tucson, said the award gives exceptional firefighters statewide recognition. Simpson received the award Thursday at the opening ceremonies of the 44th Arizona State Fire School at the Mesa Convention Center.

Simpson was the 24th winner of the award, and past winners included Mark Freeman, a retired Mesa firefighter who now serves as a Mesa City Council member.

“We look for individuals that inspire and represent the good of the Arizona Fire Service,” Matlick said. “You have to do it for the love of the job, not for the paycheck. You have to be passionate.”

Simpson has no shortage of passion.

“I enjoy the chance to make a difference in people’s lives,” Simpson said. “I think if everyone did something to pick someone up, this would be a better world.”

Deputy Mesa Fire and Medical Department Chief Forrest Smith said he is honored that a Mesa firefighter was selected for the award. He said veterans such as Simpson bring life skills with them that contribute to making them better firefighters.

“When you get people with his background and his work ethic, it carries over at work and off-duty,” Smith said. “It reflects well on our department.”

Copyright 2017 East Valley Tribune

 

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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