Yesterday was a wonderful milestone for a good friend of mine, Leo Yilmaz. Leo, who is Turkish by birth, immigrated to the States some years ago and worked as a substitute teacher, in addition to other positions. After working hard in order to qualify, he began training for the Arlington County Fire Department. On January 2, 2009, after 22 dedicated weeks, he graduated with his fellow distinguished classmates in ACFD’s 66th training group. ACFD was the first fire department responding to the Pentagon on 9-11. A friend of mine, Chief Jim Schwartz, was actually officially in-charge of that iconic military building once the horrible attack took place. He stands for the best core values any person could ask out of life and instills it in all firefighters in his organization. (Left Photo: receiving his certificate from Chief Jim Schwartz)
Firefighters are a unique group of people who rush INTO the face of danger. Most of us have careers, requiring difficult work, dedication, extra effort and all that. This one takes that based and blends the highest sense of altruism along with it. Firefighters require this intrinsic quality in their hearts, along with the willingness to perform as a team member, for the sake of a higher good, knowing they may be risking their own life. As the key note speaker from Homeland Security mentioned, these people are heroes who save lives. However, they are also the same people who take firetrucks to elementary schools to instruct children about community services. This is when children look up to the firefighters. It is also the time when teachers "check them out" during the visit. All I can say to that is: how true, how true! Female teachers have a special radar which senses when men in uniform enter the school. Their reaction is highly amusing and could be confused with an instinctual mating dance.
Leo’s Turkish name means “horizon” but in English it is sometimes distorted for obvious translation reasons. “Ufuk” is his given name. Due to this, and his high level of dedication, he is highly profiled throughout the fire department even at this early stage of his career, even though he is a modest, humble and low profile by nature. He usually goes by “Leo” to side step this name issue, but ACFD uses it for one basic and good reason: it is his name. If we are a multicultural nation, and we have been since forever, we do need to get over ourselves and honor the cultures of our current citizenry.
Good Luck to you, Ufuk “Leo” Yilmaz!
This photo is from a presentation displayed as a part of the graduation and swearing in ceremony. It is Mr. Leo, as students called him, on the screen as well as his head in the corner.