When we last caught up with Miami Beach, FL Local 1510 President Adonis Garcia, he was gearing up for a unique mission in Israel with seven other fire fighters.
Now back on U.S. soil, he expressed gratitude for the safe return of his team, describing the welcome home as “beyond expectations.”
“I didn’t expect that many accolades,” he said. “I mean Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez was there to welcome us, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis,” he said. “City of Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber was very impressed with the fact that out of the eight of us, seven of us were not Jewish, and I think that impressed him more than anything, that we were willing to do that for Israel.”
“Our Miami Beach brothers showed courage and commitment in volunteering to serve the people of Israel,” said General President Edward Kelly, “and I am proud of their job well done.”
After spending two weeks assisting in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas-led militants, Garcia describes the experience as both rewarding and eye-opening.
“On our first day there, we were sleeping and tired, just next to Tel-Aviv and we heard a rocket launch; we all had to head to the bomb shelter,” he recalled.
Members were assigned to different areas of the city through the IDF Emergency Volunteers Project, undergoing one day of training with Israel’s National Fire and Rescue Authority. The City of Miami Beach voted to approve international travel for those volunteering back in October, marking the first time city fire fighters have been authorized and covered to travel to an active war zone.
Members worked in Jerusalem, Ayalon, Sharon, and Haifa.
“I was personally stationed in Jerusalem, and we were able to run all types of calls; house fires, rollovers, gas leaks,” said Garcia. “I learned that there is a brotherhood; it’s in the United States, and when you go to Israel, the guys made us feel very much at home. We shared Shabbat with them, which I had never done with anyone.”
While some moments were heartfelt, others were surreal.
“They took us down to where you can see Gaza, and they showed us places that were hit, and you could see shrapnel from one of the rockets inside an apartment that was blown out,” Garcia recalled. He says while responding to calls, “We at least had one fire fighter with an M16, and at least one soldier with the Israel Defense Forces with you in the truck at all times.”
It’s a mission Garcia says he wouldn’t hesitate to do again.
“Not only do I feel it’s the right thing to do, but I’m also reinforced in my feeling,” he said. “The Israeli people were very loving and very kind, and they wanted us to bring back a message of hope and how much they appreciated the fact that American fire fighters were there. That was what I took away the most. Everywhere we went, people were thanking us, in the grocery stores, they would stop and even tear up, hug us, and say how grateful they were that there were American fire fighters there to risk their lives.”