EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 9, 2012

City asks for age waiver for four-tour combat veteran

serving his community

By Douglas Moser moser@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — METHUEN — David J. Eddy grew up on Pelham Street, went to Methuen High School, where he met his wife Donna, and joined the Navy after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to serve his country.

Eddy said he had wanted to be a firefighter since he was little, recalling sneaking a ride down the fire pole at the fire station on Lowell Street when he was a boy.

But with his family and his decision to join the Navy, he did not get the chance to try joining the Fire Department.

“Timing was always a factor when raising a young family,” Eddy said. “Working 60 and 70 hours a week, I didn’t have the ability to put the time and effort into the Fire Department.”

Instead, he completed four tours of duty in the Middle East, two in Iraq and two in Afghanistan, as a Navy Seabee, or a “dirt sailor” as he called it because they are always deployed on land.

Seabees are construction Navy battalions that often are still involved in combat. He returned home in July 2011 and became a reservist.

Now, at age 42, his children are older and Eddy said the time is right to join, calling himself “wiser and more seasoned.” City Councilor Sean Fountain said Eddy is at the top of the Civil Service list the city chooses its firefighters from, but Civil Service cannot certify him because the state age limit for new firefighters is 32.

City Councilors on Monday unanimously approved a home rule petition, asking the state Legislature to create an exemption to that age limit to give Eddy a shot at a job.

It must be approved a second time and get the mayor’s go-ahead before it is sent to Boston.

Eddy, who joined as a Naval reservist in 2001, became a Navy Seabee in 2003 and was deployed to Kuwait and Iraq in August 2005, where his unit provided support for Navy Seal Team Two.

He volunteered for deployment back to Iraq in May 2008, where he provided protection and support to joint security stations throughout the country.

In March 2010, he volunteered for deployment to Afghanistan with a Naval Mobile Construction Battalion, where he was the lead petty officer managing a 60-man crew on a $7.3 million project to complete 16 two-story buildings.

That November, he volunteered again for deployment to Afghanistan, this time with a different construction battalion where he was an officer-in-charge of a 13-man crew completing two forward operating bases and a 1,500-foot runway.

His list of awards includes a Navy commendation medal, two Army commendation medals, a Valorous Unit Award, three Good Conduct medals and several deployment, campaign and service medals.

At 6-3, Eddy said he undergoes two physical fitness tests every year as a reservist and passes that “with flying colors.”

“If this guy has served his country on multiple tours overseas and didn’t have an opportunity to be on one of these lists, he’s here and should be awarded that opportunity,” Fountain said.

State Rep.Linda Dean Campbell, D-Methuen, who served in the Army for eight years in the 1980s and was stationed in Germany for much of that time, said once the petition is approved by the mayor, she will deliver it to the relevant committee for approval.

The timing depends on the chair of that committee, she said.

”I can ask to expedite it,” she said. “That seems like a reasonable request.”

Once out of committee, the petition could be approved in an informal session without the full House.

The age limit, a minimum of 19 and a maximum of 32 for firefighters, is a result of the City of Methuen participating in a state contribution plan for life, accidental death and dismemberment insurance for its employees.

A condition of participating is agreeing to abide by certain rules, including the age limit.

Not all communities have agreed to participate, so some do not have a state age restriction.

Fountain said the exemption would not automatically give Eddy the job. It would allow Civil Service to certify him as meeting state requirements to be a firefighter.

Once Eddy receives that certification, the Fire Department could consider him for employment.

”I fought hard serving my country. I would like the opportunity to fight just as hard serving my community,” Eddy said.

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