On Aug. 18, 2016, six San Antonio Fire Academy cadets from the 2016 Bravo class were terminated from their positions, following accusations they were found drinking in uniform while on duty. They were 15 weeks into their training.
In one day, their lifelong dreams were ripped from them. In the weeks following, they've slowly started putting their lives back together, but it hasn't been easy. They've perservered to get their jobs back, but during that time, they've faced financial hardship, reputation damaging rumors, and the realization they may never get their jobs back -- no matter how wrong their firing was.
The San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association offers once again, a story about six cadets. Although the City of San Antonio and San Antonio Fire Department has not relented on their decision, our organization is still behind these men and will continue to fight for them until they've become San Antonio Firefighters.
The video below is the voices of these cadets describing what made them want to become a firefighter.
The son of a San Antonio Firefighter and former college football player who spent his early career working for the Bexar County Detention Center and as a mental health assistant for SAISD. He is a husband and the father of a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old.
When we touched base with Cadet B on Sept. 27, he told us one of his boys hit his head on a table a few days prior and had to get stitches. Because he doesn't have health insurance, he had to pay for the emergency expenses out of pocket. When the clinic followed up for the boy's stitch removal, he told them he couldn't afford it and he'd do it himself. The clinic said they'd remove the stitches for free. On the day we spoke to him, he had just received a call from the 4-year-old's school, telling him the boy needed to be sent home because he was running a fever.
In the weeks following, he's tried to get a job with his former employer, but it's taken some time. "It's not exactly automatic," says the guy who tried "seven or eight times" to get into the San Antonio Fire Academy. His wife has had to get her own health insurance and they've had to rely solely on her income. They're now struggling to pay for their new house they bought only two months ago, just before all the trouble started. He says he feels depressed, angry, confused, and lost.
"As a young boy, I watched the way the [San Antonio Fire Department] took care of my father while he was a San Antonio firefighter like a brother," he tells us.
A La Vernia husband who never gave up his dreams of becoming a firefighter after attending Texas A&M University in College Station.
Cadet F has been our go-to guy since the cadets were fired. He's constantly rallying the other five cadets to visit with us as we determine our next step in helping their cause -- and he's never stopped staying positive that they'll get their job back. "It's been an emotional roller coaster," he admits. "It's been tough for my wife and I to get through this stressful event. It's been a financial strain for us because we do not know which direction to go. We are holding out hope, praying I'll be reinstated, but don't know if I should start looking for a job just yet." He says he and the other five cadets are loyal to the San Antonio Fire Department.
"There has been numerous nights where I lay in bed and can't fall asleep for hours," he told us. But even with the stress, he's grateful for what he calls "amazing support" from the San Antonio community.
A 28-year-old who still holds onto a photo of a firefighter’s helmet his grandfather gave him when he was a boy.
That loyalty to the San Antonio Fire Department is something that's been clear from the start of this ordeal: these six cadets, despite what they've gone through, still want to work for the San Antonio Fire Department. Cadet E says he's been trying to hold off on getting a job, hoping they get the call they've been reinstated.
His family and girlfriend have been gathering signatures for a petition and working to appeal to the City of San Antonio as best as they can.
"I won't say I've lost hope, but it does get tougher each day," the San Antonio native wrote to us.
A Sergeant 1st Class from upstate New York who had served 13 years with the Army National Guard and had heard the San Antonio Fire Department was "one of the best in the nation."
"I'm serving as a Critical Infrastructure Analyst for Headquarters, Department of the Army. I'm currently attending a Department of Defense course in Wichita, Kansas," Cadet A wrote to us. We were relieved to hear one of the cadets had been able to secure employment with the military. But another thought popped into our minds: He's a solid candidate for the Department of the Army and is training to make critical decisions for the Department of Defense. How is he not qualified to be a San Antonio Firefighter?
It's still the place he wants to work, he said to us. He's traveled back to San Antonio to continue fighting for his job. "I still hold faith in the men and women of SAFD that brotherhood, truthfulness, and service are still the foundational pillars of the department."
A Wisconsin native from a firefighting family who couldn’t imagine becoming anything other than a firefighter, working in a big city like San Antonio.
We've met a lot of dads during this time, but they're not just the cadets themselves. We're talking about their actual fathers. Cadet D's dad, the Redgranite Area Fire District Chief, has been an integral part in the fight for these cadets' jobs, spending countless hours working to help his son get his job back -- even making a personal appeal to Chief Charles Hood himself.
We've learned Cadet D went home in Wisconsin to be with family for a few weeks and during that time delivered pizzas to earn money before returning to San Antonio. It speaks to the Eagle Scout's resourcefulness. In our last installment, Cadet D told us when he found out he got the job with the San Antonio Fire Department, he packed "whatever I could fit in my car. I didn't even have a bed."
A new dad, busy with a 4-month-old, whose wife had just quit her job to stay at home.
"I just started working again with my previous employer but I have been struggling because I worked very hard to get where I was. My wife just finished another semester of grad school and already started again. My son just turned five months old and it has been difficult because I just recently started working again. I feel frustrated by this whole situation because every day something new and untrue is being released," Cadet C wrote to us.
Cadet C is who you heard from on Univision on Sept. 22. He's a dedicated public servant and has stayed positive. Although he says he's frustrated, you won't see it in his face or his demeanor. He's calm, composed, and focused on the future, a future that revolves around working at the San Antonio Fire Department.
The calm resolve of Cadet C and the other five cadets is something that's grounded this entire effort to reclaim their jobs. It's their calm in chaos that not only defines their character as humans -- but reminds us of why they were hired on as cadets to begin with: They're the faces you'd want to see when facing unthinkable tragedy. They're the calm voice of reason in a storm of rumors and uncertainty. While falsehoods scatter, their truth is resolute. Their positivity when the light is going out burns strong.
They'd make darn good firefighters, if you know what we mean.
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