On August 20, 2014, Fire Station 26 honored 25-year-old Purple Heart recipient Richard Carson, an Army Combat Medic, for his brave service in the Zhari district of Afghanistan. While clearing a building on a patrol, one of Carson’s platoon members stepped on an anti-personnel land mine and was killed. Richard miraculously survived, but unfortunately caught most of the shrapnel from the blast. He lost large portions of his right calf muscle and his right thigh, and both ear drums were blown out. Richard’s hand was severely injured requiring multiple surgeries to restore as much function as possible. To date, he has had 20 surgeries, most of them on his right hand.
In addition to his physical injuries, he suffers from PTSD, and has been given a service dog as a companion. Despite all the challenges he has faced and overcome, Richard continues working to help others. He has established a career as an LVN for a nursing facility, and is currently in school working toward obtaining his bachelor’s degree in nursing.
During the course of the evening, the Honorable Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles, presented Specialist Richard Carson with a Certificate of Appreciation on behalf of the City of Los Angeles. Councilmember Herb Wesson, Jr. attended to represent the 10th District. Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas and many of the command staff were also present. Retired U.S. General David H. Petraeus sent an inscribed photograph to Richard expressing his gratitude and admiration for his courage on the battlefield. Lastly, he was presented with his own Fire Helmet Plaque by the crew at Fire Station 26, a fitting tribute since Richard had always strived to serve as a firefighter.
Battalion 11 Chief Steve Ruda served as master of ceremony, and long time friend Andy Crawford from Fire Station 104 served as a host family upon Richard’s arrival from Spokane, Washington.
Richard said that he was humbled to be chosen by the firefighters at 26’s, and honored that so many special guests and dignitaries were present that evening. But the account of Richard’s service and bravery will be forever engrained in those who had the privilege of meeting him that night. He will continue to be an inspiring reminder of why we serve, and the bravery that is essential to do so.
By Jeff Lore, Firefighter, FS 26-B
Photos by Adam Van Gerpen, The Los Angeles Firefighter