The call to serve

Firefighter using a drip torch to fight fire with fire
11/8/2019

Aravaipa Veteran Fire Crew member, Miriam Zirato uses a drip torch to fight fire with fire. (BLM)


BY KATY O'HARA

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
                                                                                                                                    - President John F. Kennedy​

For many veterans, including myself, the call to serve extends well beyond our time in uniform. For each of us, the reason behind our choice to join the military is unique and personal, as is our choice in careers after the military. 

As I prepared to transition from my time as an active duty Naval Officer I recall sitting with my mentor and transition counselor discussing the opportunities and decisions I would be navigating. While there was discussion about things like pay, location and family life, the single most important piece of advice I was given was “do what you love.”  

What does that mean? 

Craig Thompson, a GIS Specialist with the Office of Wildland Fire, sums up his experience as “an opportunity to use the skills and tools gained through my time in the Air Force to support our wildland firefighters on the ground.” 

For myself, what I love most about my job is twofold.  First, working alongside fellow firefighters and supporting personnel who share a passion for our public lands. Second is continuing to have a positive impact on a community during a time of crisis.  

“My path to wildland fire management was not straight,” said Russ Johnson, Policy Analyst with the Office of Wildland Fire, “but once here, the mission to serve the public reminded me of my days in the Navy, and that is fulfilling.”

Close to one-third of the staff within the Office of Wildland Fire are veterans, with vast experience, covering all four branches of military. Each has a story, each has answered the call to serve our country both in uniform and continued through our support for the wildland firefighting community.

To all those who have served, and those who continue to serve…Happy Veteran’s Day.


Katy O’Hara is the Partnership Program Lead for the Office of Wildland Fire. Katy also serves as a Public Information Officer with the Pacific Northwest Type 1 Incident Management Teams and is an active member of the Navy Reserve.