MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
Standing before his coworkers, Cherry Point Firefighter of the Year Award in hand, Lt. Michael Barbour, a civilian firefighter with Cherry Point emergency services, reflected on his time as a firefighter. He took a deep breath and began his speech. Immediately, his voice went hoarse.
“Before I made this speech, I was asked if my time in the service has had any correlation with my becoming a firefighter,” said Barbour, a former combat engineer who deployed to operations Desert Storm, Desert Fury and Task Force Ripper. “In my tenure in the Marine Corps, I have taken lives. With my career and volunteer services, I’ve seen the ability to atone for my job requirements.”
Barbour received the Cherry Point Firefighter of the Year Award at a ceremony at Fire Station 2 Feb. 21. The award is presented annually to the firefighter who embodies attention to detail, pride, care, wisdom and education.
“Our day starts when your day sucks,” said Barbour. “We meet 90 percent of people during the worst part of their lives.”
Barbour began his firefighting career while on a working party while he was a combat engineer in the Marine Corps.
“Back when I was in the Marine Corps, there was a sergeant, Sgt. William Keenze, who needed some Marines to go on a working party rebuilding a roof,” said Barbour. “Well, Keenze was with the Hubert North Carolina Fire Department, and while we were working, he got a call. He pointed at me and said ‘You, get in the truck,’ and we went to put out a woods fire.”
His unexpected adventure revolutionized his plans for the future. He began taking an active interest in firefighting and researching requirements for volunteering at local fire departments.
Barbour spent his time in the Marines as a combat engineer. He worked alongside explosive ordnance disposal during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Completing his enlistment in 1992, Barbour moved to Hubert and began working at the fire department.
Barbour’s time in the Marine Corps has had a lasting effect on his firefighting career.
“Firefighter Barbour sets the bar. He’s what every firefighter should be, and he is the poster child for the fire department,” said Capt. Richard Blaine, a firefighter with Cherry Point Emergency Services. “He’s one of those firefighters that, whether he’s on or off duty, he’s always doing something to better the department.”