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Firefighters stand in for deployed dad

Post Date:09/24/2019 10:00 AM

Fireman and kid walking into school

Erika Iverson didn’t want her 5-year-old son Syross to feel left out on Take Your Child to School Day. Syross’ dad is in the Navy and is on a two-year deployment to the Middle East.

So she asked her son’s kindergarten teacher if it would be OK if she filled in.

The teacher had a better idea! “She said we can do better than that,” said Erika.

So the Breakfast Point Academy teacher, Melinda Cowart, called her friend, Lt. Garrett Jackson, a firefighter with the Panama City Beach Fire Department. Cowart said she knows how hard it is on the family to have a spouse deployed. "I just wanted to see if I could do something to make his day a little easier," she wrote by email.

Jackson was on board! But just going in and having a donut with Syross didn’t seem good enough. Six firefighters from Station 32 showed up, meeting Syross and his mom in the Home Depot parking lot.

“I had no idea that he was going to ride in the firetruck," said Erika. “When he saw the firetruck he couldn’t wait to get out of the car. He was like ‘Can we go? Can we go? Can we go?’”

Jackson said it was a special moment for all the firefighters involved.

“We were all proud to serve this young man whose father is serving our country,” Jackson said. “It’s a small gesture that we hope made a big impact. As a fire department it is our duty to serve any way possible. Most often it’s responding to medical calls and fires, today it was a little different. We were all happy to serve today!”

It was especially noteworthy for Syross because, that’s right – he wants to be a firefighter.

“Every day when he comes home from school I ask him what he did today and he says, ‘I dunno.’ They gave him a memorable experience today,” she said.

Fire Chief Larry Couch said the department always wants to be an integral part of the community.

“We especially love interacting with the kids and going into the school,” Couch said. “We talk to them about fire safety, beach warning flags and what to do in an emergency. It keeps us connected with the people we serve and it’s a great opportunity for kids to see first responders in the community."

Erika, a Texas native, and her husband Benjamin, who is from Minnesota, have been in Panama City Beach for two years. They also have a 9-month-old daughter.

More photos are available on Panama City Beach Fire Rescue Facebook page. Public Information Officer Debbie Ward can be reached at or (850) 233-5100, Ext. 2261.




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