Trading one helmet for another: why some veterans look for careers as first responders after serving

Published: Nov. 11, 2022 at 5:22 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - For some military members, the desire to protect their community doesn’t stop when they leave the service. Veterans often choose jobs that fit with the skillsets they’ve gained during their time in active duty. One of the top choices is firefighting, where the physical intensity, burden of responsibility and teamwork match their duties in the armed forces.

“So I joined the Marines, I actually enlisted when I was 17 with my parents’ permission, went to bootcamp at 18 I think maybe a week after I graduated high school,” said Rockford Firefighter Luke Vucsko.

After seeing the movie Top Gun at an early age, Vucsko decided military life was for him. He chose the Marines, and spent ten years of active duty traveling the world.

“I was in Iraq, I was supposed to be getting out, I was done with my five-year enlistment and found out that they were gonna go to Afghanistan. And I couldn’t pass up going to both wars, so I re-enlisted and went to Afghanistan twice,” he said.

Vucsko was an infantryman, scout sniper and worked in various instructor roles. In 2015, he traded in his Marine helmet for a firefighter one.

“The things that he brings to the table, probably due to his service in the military. He keeps such a cool head under fire, he can work under pressure, he’s friendly and kind to individuals,” said

Seven years later, Vucsko says this job is his new passion, and his colleagues say they have a brother for life.

“You know, we pick each other up, there’s a lot of banter, a lot of fun, to deal with the severity of our job,” Vucsko told 23 News.

On a day meant for honoring veterans, Vucsko is spending it doing what he treasures, working at the fire station.