ROXBORO, N.C. — In Iraq, 85 civilians working on government contracts have died since the spring of 2003. Despite the risk, people are still jumping at the opportunity to work in the war zone.
Roxboro Fire Chief John Gentry is one of them. He is trading the fire line for a life in the line of fire next month. The chief takes with him plenty of inspiration as he begins his new mission a world away from Person County.
The Roxboro Fire Department is a place where co-workers become family. So when the fire chief announced he was resigning after eight years to go to Iraq, it was like losing a big brother.
"They day he told us, you could hear a pin drop," a firefighter said.
Co-workers thought Gentry was joking, but they soon discovered he was serious.
"It all boils down to Sept. 11, 2001," Gentry said. "The impact it had on me, it never goes out of my mind. So this is my chance to do my part to help fight terrorism," Gentry said.
Gentry will be working for a major company in Iraq, essentially acting as a fire chief for a military base. He admits it is also a good career move.
"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't for financial reasons too," Gentry said.
Money, he says, is a distant second to what he will learn.
"It's going to be an experience in another world," he said.
Gentry will be in Iraq for a year, working with hundreds of firefighters from across the United States. He says the experience will be invaluable.