Douglas McKinney isn’t just the Kempner Volunteer Fire Department’s responder of the year, he’s a former soldier and war veteran who has given his all for the Army and for the fire department — facts he would not change for anything.

“I’ve been very blessed in doing what I love to do best and that’s helping people,” said McKinney, reeking of smoke from a brush fire he had put out just minutes earlier. “As a firefighter I belong to something bigger than myself. When someone is having a bad day, a smile can make it better. No amount of money can replace the feeling that I can be the one to change someone’s bad day. There’s no better way to serve, whether it be as a soldier, MP or firefighter.”

McKinney served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel as a military police officer and became a volunteer firefighter two years ago after retiring from active duty.

“Hands down, I’ve worked with some of the best people. It’s more than family for us. You can’t stand family sometimes, but for us brothers and sisters in arms, we’ll die for each other. I found that in both my careers. We give our all for the safety of the community.”

McKinney being awarded top responder means he responded to more than 60 percent of incoming emergency calls.

He attributes his success to not having a full-time job as many other volunteer firefighters in his department. When asked why he volunteers, he said the best feeling in the world is saving a life.

“The worse part, though, is when you can’t save someone or their property,” McKinney said. “Then I feel so helpless. My family taught me to be loving and to care and there’s so much we can do, but don’t as people. I want to change that as a firefighter.”

McKinney also feels privileged to be the driver of the department’s new booster 24 fire truck.

“It’s created a sense of pride in the department,” he said. “We go anywhere and rescues range from structural fires to car and grass fires to medical assistance. It’s the latest and greatest piece of equipment to help protect the community.”

The booster serves the Kempner area and county dispatch, and also provides aid in Copperas Cove.

“I don’t do this for praise, I do it with the hope that every call I respond to will result in everyone goes home safe. There’s no better feeling than helping another.”

The Kempner fire department is a 100 percent volunteer 501(c)(3) organization.

To donate, call 512-932-3993.

Corinne Lincoln-Pinheiro | Herald

A journalist by trade, Corinne has written for both the military and civilian populations. She has a Master's in Writing and Bachelor's in English. She is also a military spouse and her family is currently stationed at Fort Hood.

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