By Robert Stakem, executive director of the Senator John J. Shumaker Public Safety Center at HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College.
Published by Harrisburg Magazine, Nov. 2, 2022
Editor’s note: Public safety professionals often hold informal discussions on the back bumper or tailboard of an ambulance or fire truck. Hence, the column’s tagline, “Tailboard Talk.”
During Veterans Day observances each November, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by military veterans. For some, those sacrifices continue as they serve in their community’s public safety organizations. This month, we interviewed four military veterans serving in first responder fields in Central Pennsylvania.
Because of its paramilitary nature, military veterans often transition to careers in law enforcement. Jamie Kopinetz, a full-time law enforcement coordinator at HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, is an example. He served in the Army Reserves for nine years and deployed to Iraq in 2003 before becoming a full-time police officer.
Kopinetz said he developed a “sense of service” and recognized that serving “something bigger than self” started in the eighth grade, when he was introduced to law enforcement in an Explorer Post. Kopinetz, who recently retired from the Hummelstown Police Department, continues his service to this day as an instructor and mentor to new police recruits.
Military veterans also transition to fire and rescue or the emergency medical services (EMS) field. Larry McCarter, a HACC EMS instructor, enlisted in the Army and was deployed to Vietnam. When McCarter returned from Vietnam, he joined AT&T, retiring as a satellite operations team manager with the disaster recovery team. In his civilian work, McCarter responded to natural and human-caused disasters, including the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11.
McCarter set up communication systems, allowing responders and civilians to communicate with loved ones when other systems failed. He became an emergency management technician (EMT) so he could help his team if anyone was injured on those deployments. Upon retiring from AT&T, McCarter became a paramedic and served in the Harrisburg region for many years. He continues his service today by instructing the next generation of EMS professionals at HACC.
Carlos Patiño-Quiroz has served with the United States Army for 17 years, and is currently in the Pennsylvania National Guard. During his time in the military, Staff Sergeant Patiño-Quiroz held several leadership positions while supporting combat support hospitals and ground combat units. He recently completed a tour of duty supporting Operation Inherent Resolve in various locations in the Middle East with the 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade. During this deployment, he was able to apply his expertise and save a military-working dog who suffered from cardiac arrest.
For his actions, Patiño-Quiroz was awarded a Distinguished Air Medal and an Army Commendation Medal. He graduated from HACC’s Nursing Program and returned to HACC as adjunct faculty after completing a Master’s Degree in Nursing Science. He is currently faculty for HACC’s Paramedic and the Pre-Hospital Registered Nurse programs and is a full-time flight nurse for STAT Medevac. Patiño-Quiroz also holds several national nursing certifications in critical care, advanced cardiac medication and emergency and critical care transport. Patiño-Quiroz is currently completing a program in adult gerontology acute care nursing.
Jeremy Saul, a captain with the Harrisburg Bureau of Fire and a hazardous material specialist with Pennsylvania Task Force One, became a firefighter at a young age when he says “helping people became a calling to me.” He served in the Army and then the Pennsylvania Air National Guard from 1999-2019, while continuing to serve his local community as an EMT and firefighter.
After leaving the military, Saul graduated from HACC’s Fire Academy and was hired by the Harrisburg Bureau of Fire. In his role with the task force, Saul most recently deployed to Florida to help those affected by Hurricane Ian.
Each of these individuals exemplify a life of service. As Saul said, “This calling to serve is like no other because although there is a rewarding feeling, it takes sacrifice.”
Sacrifice and service. These are just two of the tenets we should be thankful for this month as we honor military veterans and those who continue to serve today.