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    From Small Spark to Bright Blaze: A Father-Son Story

    NAVSTA Rota Fire & Emergency Services conduct drill aboard USS Porter (DDG 78)

    Photo By Petty Officer 2nd Class Eduardo T Otero | 201001-N-KH151-0190 NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain (Oct. 1, 2020) Eduardo Lopez, a...... read more read more

    Some time ago, Eduardo sat in the driver’s seat of Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota, Spain’s Fire Department’s Engine-2. He wore a firefighter toy helmet made of light red plastic -- the words "Naval Station" stamped across the front. Being too big for the little baby's head, his helmet tilted to a side. Eduardo, however, didn't seem to notice -- and was probably not even really aware of what was going on that day at all. His dad, Manuel Lopez, a firefighter working for the Fire & Emergency Services Department aboard the installation, was giving his son a chance to experience what it felt like to sit in one of these amazing vehicles.

    It wouldn't be the last time Eduardo got this chance.

    Some time later, Eduardo sat in the department’s Engine-2 again. This time, his helmet was made of fiberglass and it fit him just right. He was perfectly aware of what was going on: the fire truck was racing across the installation in response to a simulated emergency aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78).

    It has been two decades since Eduardo wore his oversized plastic headgear in the driver's seat of the firefighting vehicle. Now, he is no longer a baby, but a firefighter working for NAVSTA Rota’s Fire & Emergency Services Department, just like his father.

    “Ever since I was a little boy, I saw my dad as a hero,” said Eduardo. “Back in school, I liked telling everyone my dad was a firefighter; everyone knew it. Many times during the summer, firefighters used to visit the schools. I remember that I loved being near my dad and the fire truck during those events. I’ve always seen being a firefighter as my goal.”

    From his part, Manuel loved nothing more than allowing his son to be involved in this aspect of his life as much he wanted.

    “I love my job,” said Manuel about being a firefighter. “Out of my group of friends, I consider my job to be the best, so I wanted that for my son.”

    Every time Manuel and the fire department visited Eduardo’s school to interact with the children, he noticed his son’s interest in the job. This fascination Eduardo showed was also apparent during the many events hosted by the firefighters that Manuel took him out to in Rota.
    However, as Manuel can attest to, wishful thinking does not a firefighter make. Eduardo suspected as much, but his father knew from experience.

    He said Eduardo would always ask him what he needed to do to be ready to apply to become a firefighter when the time came. He urged him to study and to take on outdoor sports and activities.

    “When I was 16-17 years old, I began to take becoming a firefighter seriously, so I started training,” said Eduardo. “I signed up for a gym, started running, etc.”

    Through the years that followed, Eduardo took all of his dad’s advice. He focused on activities related to being physically active and fostering teamwork. He didn’t smoke and seldom drank. He developed the lifestyle requirements his father taught him.

    It would take some time, but after all the work was done and the time was spent pursuing his goal of becoming a firefighter, an opening became available and Eduardo made sure to apply.
    One day, a call came in.

    “When I got the call, I couldn't believe it,” said Eduardo. “At that moment my mind couldn’t conceive that I was going to be a firefighter -- that I was going to be like my father -- which had been the goal since I was little.”

    Eduardo called his dad to share the news. He said they both cried tears of joy on the phone.
    “As a father, for me, it is a source of pride,” said Manuel. “When I see him dressed as a firefighter at my side, I still can’t believe it. I always wanted this for him because I knew that he wanted it too.”

    Today, Eduardo works alongside his father.

    A few days ago (at the time of this writing) when Eduardo was tasked with responding to the simulated shipboard fire emergency aboard USS Porter, his father was there to give him advice.
    “For me to have the chance to train him and to pass the things that I know on to him is, for me, an incredible achievement in life.”

    Eduardo’s job was to engage a simulated Class-A fire inside the skin of the ship, a few decks below the main one. It was his first time participating in this specific drill. As he did, Manuel remained on stand-by following the drill requirements, but one can assume that the many lessons Eduardo had learned from his dad, including the few last-second bits of instruction Manuel was sure to impart to his son before he went down to tackle the situation on-scene, were at the forefront of his mind.

    “My father has a lot of experience; he’s been doing this for many years,” said Eduardo. “He was explaining to me the procedures to follow -- details he could give me so that I can learn and advance.”

    The moment, according to Eduardo, was surreal. And after the drill was finished, he and Manuel posed for a photo -- father and son wearing their firefighting gear, all smiles under their face masks.

    “For me, it’s a unique experience,” said Eduardo. “I think very few people get to experience something like that: for your father to have been your role model, and wanting to be like him, then getting the chance to be there alongside him. I can’t even describe it.”

    Eduardo may have achieved his lifelong goal of being a firefighter like his father, but he doesn’t want to stop there.

    “I would love to be a chief,” said Eduardo. “Although, I would probably have to transfer to the American side. For now, my next goal is to get to be a fire truck driver and then be able to become a captain. Those are my goals for the next few years.”

    He urges others to follow their dreams -- his experience serving as a real-life example of the possibilities.

    “I believe that, above all, if you like and want to be something in life, you should fight for it,” said Eduardo. “You should follow that goal and never let go of it. Because when you finally get there like I did, that is what’s really fulfilling.”

    And when it comes to Manuel, for someone with such a long and successful career at NAVSTA Rota's fire department, there was one flame he chose to never extinguish -- the product of a spark he ignited himself 20 years ago in baby Eduardo's little heart.



    Date Taken: 10.08.2020
    Date Posted: 10.08.2020 05:22
    Story ID: 380522
    Location: ES

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