National Guard soldier returns to work with Waterloo Fire Rescue - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

National Guard soldier returns to work with Waterloo Fire Rescue

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

After a challenging year of deployment, Captain Garrett Gingrich is grateful to be home. But his service doesn't end in the Middle East. Here in the Cedar Valley, Captain Gingrich is Firefighter Gingrich.

"I went right back into it. It's almost like, in a lot of ways, like I didn't leave," Gingrich told KWWL. "They have a lot of respect for what I did, and they tell me that."

"We thought about him, probably just about every day," said Waterloo Chief of Fire Services Pat Treloar.

They thought about Gingrich while they at the station and off-duty. Waterloo firefighters took his wife Angie under their care.

"A number of guys were out and helped with various projects around their house, just kind of like one of the family," said Treloar.

And when a fire shook up a camp in Afghanistan, Waterloo firefighters sent a care package, including several sets of full gear.

"It was a significant time for us overseas. And they heard me and they helped right away," said Gingrich.

In the year-plus that Gingrich was gone, the department kept his gear ready, waiting for him to return.

"We held his position. In fact, when he was overseas, he was able to bid on a job that came open. So he bid on an assignment, he got it, and we held it for him," said Treloar.

Gingrich was promoted to an assigned medic position with Waterloo Fire Rescue while he was serving in Afghanistan. He's quick to point out -- he's lucky to have a job, much less a promotion, to come home to. Not every soldier is in the same position.

"I have concerns that a lot of my soldiers don't have jobs like I do to go back to. They don't have stable careers," he said. "So if there's employers out there who need work, need quality people, these guys have gone through some amazing experiences. And they're hard workers. They're ready to work, and they want to make a living back here now."

As for Gingrich, he's looking forward to a more normal life in the coming weeks and years. He's still saving lives, but he's going home to his family each night.

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