Area firefighter protecting troops in Afghanistan

December 26, 2010 8:19:22 AM PST
With thousands of American troops, it's no doubt their families are missing them this holiday season. And with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many civilian workers are overseas as well. A civilian worker who has fought fires here in Houston is now sharing with Eyewitness News how he is helping protect American soldiers. For 15 years, Josh Sandoval fought fires with Ellington Field Fire Department. Now 34, he's taken a yearlong firefighting contract job in Afghanistan.

Sandoval lives and works in a war zone. When we sat down with him, he was home on a two-week vacation. His home now is a tent on an airfield in Jalalabad.

Sandoval is trained to deal with mass casualties and put out fires caused by rocket attacks, IEDs and suicide bombers. His main job is protecting soldiers.

"In just the three months that I've been out there now, I've seen more action than I saw my whole time in the military," Sandoval said.

But there's a reason. He, like most contractors, is willing to risk his life to work in a warzone.

"I'm making approximately three to four times what I'd make here as a firefighter," he said.

"It's definitely hazard pay," said Morgan Tolleson, Sandoval's fiancée.

Tolleson is a school teacher. She admits the fear is raw, but says they will come out ahead in the long run.

"I appreciate it. It's a big sacrifice that he's doing because I just have to wait. That's hard but he's out there, he's under attack, he's the one who really is sacrificing the most," Tolleson said.

"It's going to put us ahead. We'll be able to put a large down payment down on a house," Sandoval said.

The risks of the job are something neither likes to focus on. Firefighters don't carry weapons and stay on base for safety. But you can't help but wonder, particularly during the holidays, if it's all worth it.

For now, they still hope it will be.

"I have nine more months to go. And I count every day and just try to take it one day at a time," Sandoval said.

Sandoval is able to return home every 90 days. He says this second job overseas will likely be his last, away from his family.


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