More than 40 people, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, gathered at the L.A. Fire Department’s Fire Station No. 26 to thank and honor wounded U.S. Army veteran Richard Carson for his dedicated service to the country at a special dinner and reception.
The Aug. 20 event, hosted by the USC Price School of Public Policy’s Executive Master of Leadership program and LAFD Fire Station No. 26, was the focus of a community project by EML student and firefighter Jeffrey Lore.
It’s not the measure of the challenges that we face, it’s what we do after that defines who we are as people.
Garcetti presented Carson a Certificate of Appreciation from the city of Los Angeles for his courageous contributions as an Army combat medic.
“It’s not the measure of the challenges that we face, it’s what we do after that defines who we are as people,” Garcetti said. “What you embody, which are the values of the armed forces of this country, are also the values of this fire department: service, professionalism, integrity, respect, innovation and trust.”
Injured in Afghanistan
Carson displayed these traits during his nine-month deployment to the Zhari district in Afghanistan. While clearing a building on patrol, one of his platoon members stepped on an anti-personnel land mine, and Carson caught most of the shrapnel. His eardrums were blown out from the blast, he lost a large portion of his calf and thigh, and he has undergone more than 20 reconstructive surgeries on his hand. He has also been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and now has a service dog named Zeke.
Despite this trauma, Carson, at age 25, has become a licensed vocational nurse, and he’s currently back in school with the goal of obtaining his bachelor’s in nursing from Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho. He has also dedicated countless hours to helping other veterans, including his extensive volunteer work with therapeutic horseback riding and service dog programs.
In 2013, Carson spent a weekend with the LAFD, which partnered with USC to bring military veterans from the Wounded Warrior Project to Los Angeles for a weekend of football and fun. Carson made a strong impression on Lore, a former U.S. Marine, who is earning his EML degree in preparation for his promotion to captain.
As part of the EML program, students are tasked with leading a project at home, in the community or in the workplace. So when it came time for Lore to choose what to do, he knew he wanted to host a reception to honor Carson.
“He always wanted to be a firefighter, so I thought, what better place to have a dinner for him than at the local firehouse,” Lore said. “Not enough people give praise and thank yous, so it’s good to tell someone that you value what he did and pay tribute to what he did.”
A shared sense of duty
During the event, LAFD Battalion Chief Stephen Ruda noted how Carson and the fire department share the same sense of duty.
“The expression of our logo here at Fire Station 26 is ‘any time, any place,’ ” Ruda said. “And it’s the same thing you have committed to on the call of duty. You said, ‘Any time, any place.’ You set out to help others.”
Retired U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, who serves as USC’s Judge Widney Professor, which includes an appointment at USC Price, also sent Carson a message that expressed his “deep appreciation for your service and sacrifice” and “great admiration for your courage on the battlefield.”
Carson was touched by the heartfelt reception, which was catered by volunteer restaurant Manhattan Steak and Seafood with support from the nonprofit organization RAMP.
“I’m used to being in the background, trying to help others,” Carson said. “I’m not used to being the one getting any recognition.
“I really didn’t know exactly what to expect,” he added. “It was actually an honor. It was really, really cool.”