Firefighter Jay Ham a ‘Hometown Hero’
Jay Ham, a firefighter and EMT from Johnsonville, is this week’s “Hometown Hero.” When he's not volunteering to help others, Jay works to spread awareness of Autism.
As part of the “Hometown Heroes” series, we’ve partnered with County Waste and Latham Ford to celebrate local unsung heroes for their good deeds and honorable work.
We asked Jay a few questions about his work. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: What inspired you to become a firefighter?
A: I first became a volunteer while in high school. A friend of mine, who was a volunteer (and had a family tradition in the local fire department), literally harassed me until I gave in and joined. But a funny thing happens: some people, career and volunteer, join the fire service. But for a few, it joins them. And from the first training I went to, it joined me. I don't really remember myself without the fire service. I've now been involved for more than half of my life.
A: In and of itself, all of what we do is rewarding. To be granted the opportunity to impact someone else is not something that should ever be taken for granted. Whether it's saving a life or recovering a half burned photograph or heirloom for someone who lost everything, those small gestures allow you to provide a type of humanity you can't experience in other professions.
If I had to pick one single thing that has been the most rewarding, it's been accidentally helping to provide enlightenment to my fellow providers on the needs of persons with Developmental Disabilities and Autism in particular. My son, who is 5, is Autistic. Like most parents when faced with this, it hit like a ton of bricks. At first I was in denial. But as I began to accept things, I wanted to do something for my boy. So I went in search of a small, puzzle piece ribbon sticker for my helmet. When I couldn't find one, I designed one. Little did I know how they would take off. Just a few years later, helmet and car stickers are all over the state, and have reached several areas of the country and even into Canada.
A: For me, the biggest challenge remains, as for many people, time management. In addition to my son, we have an 11 year-old daughter and a 4-year-old daughter. I am an assistant coach of my son's flag football team, and both my daughters play soccer. I also have returned to school to obtain my bachelor's degree in fire service administration. Professionally, I volunteer for the Johnsonville Fire Department where I currently am the rescue captain. I also work full-time as an EMT for the Town of Colonie EMS Department and part-time for New York state as a state fire instructor. I hope to someday get to sit down and introduce myself to my wife, who is truly a rock and a huge support for myself and our kids.
Q: Do you consider yourself a "hero?" Why or why not?
There are so many people, from all types of professions, including my own, whose efforts deserve far more recognition than my own. That said, I have been given an ability to perform tasks and help others and I do that to the best of my ability 110 percent. But beyond the effort I give, I can honestly say I am just one small cog in the large machine that is the fire and EMS community.
To nominate our next “Hometown Hero,” click here.