Success Stories

Below are some testimonials from veterans that we have helped along the way. Stories like this are important to us and something we strive to be a part of as much as we can.

Matthew “Ski” Wiatrowski (Left) and Omar Curbelo (Right)

Omar had aspirations of becoming a firefighter during his five years of service as a Marine. But during his combat tour in 2011, he was seriously injured in Afghanistan. Omar had to undergo an extensive amount of physical rehabilitation due to his injuries, but his own mental obstacles were even more challenging. He had doubts that he was physically capable of becoming a firefighter.

Leadership Under Fire

Omar’s reservations didn’t last long, however, after attending the Leadership Under Fire Conference with Hope For The Warriors® in Spring 2013. He was one of sixteen wounded service members and veterans that attended the workshop and training session. Omar was able to successfully complete authentic simulations of fire attack and rescue. The conference was the catalyst that changed Omar’s outlook and gave him the tools he needed to face mental and physical challenges.

Each conference participant is also paired with a mentor. Omar’s mentors were Matthew “Ski” Wiatrowski, a Marine Corps disabled veteran and firefighter, and Joseph “Doc” Rimkus, a Navy Corpsman and firefighter Lieutenant. With Ski and Doc’s influence and mentorship, Omar was able to challenge his personal doubts by pursuing a career with the Charlotte Fire Department.

Through our Career Transition & Education Programs, Hope For The Warriors® paid for Omar’s expenses to attend the Leadership Under Fire Conference in 2013, where he gained the confidence and the drive to accomplish his goal of becoming a firefighter.

A Dream Becomes Reality

Omar has since been medically retired from the Marine Corps and accepted into the Charlotte Fire Department Academy. Working together, Hope For The Warriors® and Leadership Under Fire gave Omar the confidence to pursue his goals, as well as the mentorship, guidance, and knowledge to support his transition. As a result, Omar’s dream to become a firefighter is now a reality.

Justin Murphy

During my first deployment to Iraq, I was conducting route reconnaissance as an infantryman. During that patrol, one of the vehicles from our support battalion was struck by an IED, leaving 2 soldiers from the route clearance team critically wounded. As we approached the scene I remember watching the medics take action. I remember having this feeling in my gut, wishing there was more that I could do. This is when my interest in emergency medicine and life-saving began.

Upon leaving the Army, I knew that I wanted to be a Firefighter/Paramedic, so I jumped right into EMT school. After that I attended the Fire Academy where I realized the fire service was a whole new animal that I knew nothing about. I needed a mentor, someone who had “been there and done that.” After some searching online in order to see if such I thing existed, I stumbled upon the Paddy Brown Program. I read the story of Paddy Brown’s heroics and became immediately inspired. I contacted the program right away. I was paired with my mentor, Matthew Wiatrowski (“Ski”), a veteran Firefighter with the Charlotte, NC Fire Department. Ski was a tremendous help during my hiring process. He coached me on everything from what to wear during interviews to how to carry myself. He made sure to keep in touch throughout my hiring process. He was a great source of positive reinforcement and moral support.

I finally was hired by my #1 choice of Fire Departments, where I grew up in central Florida. On April 10th, 2017 I attended Hillsborough County Fire Rescue’s orientation class 1701 as a Firefighter recruit. I am so grateful for all the support the Paddy Brown Program has given me, and I am ready to give back to that community however I can.

Ryan Reed (left)

Ryan joined the US Army in 2009 as an Infantryman. After a deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2010, he pursued a commission through ROTC at SUNY Potsdam. Ryan commissioned in 2013 as an Army Reserve Military Intelligence Officer. When transitioning to the civilian life he wanted to continue his service and maintain the strong personal relationships seen in the combat arms.

While enrolled in an EMT course, he met numerous Firefighter/Paramedics that assured him that the sense of service and brotherhood are deeply embedded in the fire service. While enrolled in paramedic school Ryan met Brandon Patchett, one of the Paddy Brown Program local mentors.

Brandon explained and guided Ryan through the challenging process of testing for a career Firefighter/Paramedic position with a municipality. Brandon was the ideal mentor because he was an Infantryman who had transitioned to the fire service. Immediately after paramedic school Ryan was mobilized and deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. Within weeks of returning from Iraq, Ryan was offered a position as a Probationary Firefighter/Paramedic with the Naperville Fire Department.

Alexandro Rangel

Middleton Rural Fire District & Eagle Fire Department

I joined the US Marine Corps in September 2001 and was honorably discharged as a Sergeant in October 2005. I was deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; the Horn of Africa; Afghanistan and Iraq in the 4 years I served. As an infantry squad leader in a rifle platoon, I led Marines in combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Although the Marines in my command all came home, I did lose 7 brothers in combat, and 3 more brothers that made it back to the States, but struggled with coming home.

I too was struggling. Three years ago, I had just about given up hope in being able reintegrate with society, and pretty much stopped believing I would ever become a fireman. But with Middleton Fire taking me on as a volunteer, then Eagle Fire taking me on, as well as Boise Fire and Pocatello Fire showing interest in me, these things have been encouraging and have helped me regain hope and the confidence I feel I need to continue working hard in order to be ready when that full-time job offer comes.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a tough thing to battle, but the fire service offers a band of brothers similar to those I had in the Marines, which has helped me tremendously and I now know where it is I belong in the civilian sector. I can be a fireman, I will be a fireman.

I first heard about Paddy Brown on a TV show called Rescue Me. He was referenced when the firefighters on the show performed a series of window rescues. Since joining the Fire Service, I have heard more and more about Paddy Brown, from many people, and recently, I did some pretty extensive online research, learning everything I can about him through YouTube videos, his website, and other outlets. I am in awe of the man's story and his accomplishments. I think that just about every one in the service today that's worth their salt wanted to be a fireman to be like Paddy Brown, regardless of whether they knew who he was or not. The way I see it, Paddy Brown set out to be the firefighter that people think of when they hear the word FIREFIGHTER, and actually achieved it. Before him there might have been a template, but since him, that template has a name.

Going forward, Paddy Brown's leadership and example let's us all know that although the mark is high, it is attainable. It serves as a standard for us to gauge ourselves, making it clear to us when we don't quite measure up, and making it apparent to the rest of us when someone is working to follow him. It's a pretty great thing that I have come to recognize; in my short time as a firefighter, I have had the privilege of working with various men that strive to emulate him, which lets me know that the Fire Service is in good hands, especially because through these men, there have been many times that I feel I have actually met him.

It is said that Paddy Brown is gone but never forgotten. I disagree. I don't think Paddy Brown is gone. And he's never forgotten because he never left. His spirit has been leading us since those towers fell. And just like his last words to dispatch that morning were "Thank You." We echo that sentiment today to him, for giving us a direction to head: UP.

-Alexandro Rangel