‘It’s about determination’: Army veteran, single dad graduates fire academy, teaching daughter life lesson
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi has 24 new firefighters after Thursday’s graduation ceremony.
“We are excited for them to go and serve their community,” Terry Wages said, executive director of the state’s fire academy.
You can call them Firefighter Class 193, but they don’t just fight fires.
Often the first to arrive on the scene, these are the men and women who also treat the sick, pull people from damaged vehicles, help with hazardous spills, and teach kids about fire safety.
And for the first time, the intense seven-week training lasted ten weeks due to a COVID-19 outbreak, but the state took extra precautions, regrouped, and completed another successful graduation.
“We were able to safely deliver all firefighters back to their communities ready for duty,” Class Coordinator Instructor Chris Carrera said.
Raymond Evans is a new graduate now working in his hometown of Laurel.
“I knew very early in the class that Raymond had a great attitude, work ethic, and commitment to the goals of the class. These attributes made him a great asset to class 193, as well as a great serviceman for our country!” Carrera added.
His journey to get here hasn’t been easy. Evans is an Army veteran who said he’d faced one battle after another since leaving the military in 2014.
“Making that adjustment to civilian life trying to find where you fit in, I bounced around a lot,” Evans said. “A lot of times coming from the military, your personality can be kind of rough to civilians. It was also hard to translate my skills as a logistics specialist.”
Despite a business degree, excellent work ethic, and spotless record, he said it was still a fight to find stability.
“I worked at a chicken plant, I delivered pizzas, I did whatever I had to do to keep a roof over my head,” he said.
After taking full custody of his daughter, Evans said he knew he needed a career that allowed him to be present as a single dad.
“She is my motivation,” he smiled. “I never want her to come home to no electricity or an empty refrigerator.”
Evans’ daughter, Logan, is ten and attended Thursday’s ceremony.
“I just smiled,” Logan said. “I’m really proud of him.”
When asked how it feels to have a dad who’s a firefighter, Logan grinned, “yeah, it’s pretty cool.”
Besides a cool job, Evans, graduating at the top of his class, hopes his daughter remembers more.
“I hope she saw determination; that’s the biggest thing... you want something, you go for it. Don’t give up, especially something that you really want.”
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