S. F. firefighter called to serve in U.S. Marines
|By Alison Soltau, San Francisco Examiner|
|SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco firefighter Michael Digre thinks the stress of responding to cardiac arrests in San Franciscos busy downtown has been preparation for his next challenge serving as a U.S. Marines sergeant in Iraq.
The 23-year old, who has been a Marine reservist since he left Mills High School in Millbrae, clocked off last month from life as a Tenderloin firefighter in readiness for a six-month Iraq expedition beginning this week.
It is the second time he has juggled dual roles to serve country and community. In 2003, only four days into his firefighting career, he was called up for his first military tour. Digre is a parachute rigger and jumpmaster in the airborne reservist First Marine Expeditionary Force and was sent to Kuwait and Iraq for three months.
The San Francisco Fire Department currently has three firefighters in Iraq and Afghanistan and another 11 who could be called up at any time.
The military has given me a good sense of the chain of command, and the Fire Department has taught me to stay calm and be able to know what task I have to perform and deal with stress, said Digre, speaking by phone from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
He is in a dangerous job here in San Francisco, and now he is going to a foreign country, so we wish him all the best and hope for his speedy return so we can work side by side with him again, said Fire Department spokesman Pete Howes.
The strong devotion to public service runs in the family. Digres dad, Eric, works for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and was a volunteer firefighter and Army reservist. His mother, Susan, is the vice mayor of the Pacifica City Council. His brother is a soldier, his sister a nurse.
Its not goodbye, its see you later, Eric Digre said by phone Tuesday, choking up. Its going to be a six months thats dragging its tail, but we are very proud of his commitment to his community.
Digre knows his latest expedition will be in a more violent war than he previously experienced.
Im excited to go and relieve the Marines who are over there, but I am a little apprehensive about whats going on, he said, referring to insurgent violence that has claimed the lives of many American soldiers.
On New Years Day, his last shift at Station 3, colleagues threw a big farewell dinner.
It wasnt hard to say goodbye because I know I will come back, he said simply.
Reprinted from the San Francisco Examiner