Honored for Serving Our Nation
This year's Firefighter of the Year came to us through the Albany County Legislature sponsored Recruitment and Retention committee's 24-hour hotline. With an interest in joining and taking classes, he instantly signed up as a social member 3 weeks after his high school graduation. Within the next 30 days, he spent numerous hours at the firehouse captivating everything possible. In the following month, on August 26, 1999, he became an active Elsmere firefighter.
Over the next six months, he fully immersed himself in all aspects of firefighting. He took classes, participated in training drills, and responded to a majority of his company's fire calls. In February 2000, he took a seven-month military leave for Basic Training, but upon his return, he immediately returned as an active firefighter, participating fully in his department, and doing what he loves the most, helping the residents of his community. He never stopped learning and improving his skills. He enrolled in classes for Hazardous Material Operations, Hazardous material Technician, Decontamination, and the very enduring FAST team. Throughout all of his firematic service, he somehow found the time to become an EMT and participate with the Delmar Rescue Squad. He sets an example as a firefighter, EMT, and brother. These are just some of the reasons why his peers recognized him.
His passion for service goes far beyond his firematic and community service. While in his first semester of College, he once again went on military leave, as he was ordered to Active Duty in the United States Military. He would spend the next 18 months serving his country. This Sergeant spent one year in Iraq, serving as an Engineering Technician Surveyor. He was stationed in Kirkuk at one of Sudan Hussein's private Air Force Bases, where he surveyed and built living quarters for the other units that were already there, and future troops that would eventually be stationed there. His job was to provide safe and livable quarters for the United States Military. During his Tour of Duty in Iraq, he was given a 2-week leave for R&R, and he returned home to reaffirm his passion.
After completing his Tour, he returned to Bethlehem, where he decided to continue his education. Although he is currently away at college, he always takes every opportunity to respond to emergencies while he is on break.
The firefighters in Bethlehem come from many backgrounds, but certainly share some common values and common goals: particularly when it comes to protecting our neighborhoods and keeping our residents safe. This individual goes beyond his community, in his service to our country, and I can't think of a more fitting venue to honor such an individual than this American Legion, where so many have served with the same conviction.
This award is given to volunteer firefighters who not only perform admirably on the job but also are heavily involved in their respective communities, and in that regard, Pete Degnan was the logical choice.
Pete Degnan has served the Elsmere Fire Company since 1999, and has already forged a successful career as a firefighter. People such as Pete are the future of our fire company. He has maturity, commitment, and integrity, and takes his job very seriously. On behalf of the members of the Elsmere Fire Company, it is with great honor that we nominate Peter Degnan as this year's firefighter of the year.