FDNY Firefighter Jason Brezler Spends Christmas in Afghanistan Fighting Taliban - Not Fires

NY Daily News - December 27, 2009

by Stephanie Gaskell AND Barry Paddock

Bronx firefighter Jason Brezler usually volunteers at the firehouse on Christmas, but this year he spent the holiday fighting the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.

"If I wasn't here, 90 percent I'd probably be filling in for someone who has kids," Brezler told the Daily News from his combat outpost in Helmand province. "Those guys are all away from their families, too."

Brezler, 31, is a captain with the Marine Reserves, serving with the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines.

He's been deployed four times since Sept. 11.

"I'm actually proud to be here," he said. "We all volunteered for this deployment. All of us wanted to come here and contribute to the fight in Afghanistan."

Brezler said the holidays are tough, though.

He misses his family and his fellow firefighters at Ladder 58.

At the firehouse on E. Tremont Street, Brezler was on everyone's minds.

"He probably would have been here (Christmas)," said firefighter Matthew Willock, 27, of Nanuet.

Brezler ate beef kebabs with the Marines, while his fellow firefighters in the Bronx cooked up some pork chops and broccoli.

"We miss him a lot," said firefighter Jerry Sweeney, 45, of Howell, a 15-year-veteran of the fire department.

"It's a bad situation but he makes the best of it. We're here on Christmas day working, but the difference is we get to go home."

Brezler was in the village of Now Zad, a former Taliban stronghold, with fellow Bronx native Staff Sgt. Luis Agostini.

Agostini's parents, wife and 7-year-old son said they're planning to celebrate Christmas a few weeks late this year - when the Marine comes home on leave.

"This season I told my family I don't want to celebrate anything," said Agostini's mom, Daisy, who talked to her son yesterday on Skype.

"I don't think it's fair when he's not having a Christmas."

Agostini, 28, is serving with Regimental Combat Team 7 in Now Zad temporarily, so his mail was stuck back at nearby Camp Dwyer.

"I think I have some packages waiting for me," he said.