BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — As a kid watching the TV series Emergency! Les Case would put on a hat and raincoat and pretend he was extinguishing a fire.
“My mom always said I’d be a fireman, so she was surprised when I went to the police academy. Now, I do both,” said Case, who today works part time for Monclova Township Fire and Rescue and is a federal agent with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
On September 9, the Monclova Township resident was honored with the Patriot Award, given by the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Ohio field office to recognize those who have made significant contributions to the security, safety and welfare of Ohio and the nation.
The awards are intended to recognize those who have committed their lives to service and the public good, said Ohio TSA Federal Security Director Don Barker.
“I’ve gotten awards for both law enforcement and fire, but this one took me by surprise,” said Case, who was nominated by another federal agent. “It’s very humbling. You listen to the background and bios of the people getting these awards and I’m so impressed. Then I listen to them reading my bio and think, ‘Oh my gosh, I have done all of that.’ To me, I’m just doing what I’m trained to do.”
After Case graduated from DeVilbiss High School, he focused on law enforcement and started his career in Waterville Township. His police career included 13 years at the Put-in-Bay Police Department before the September 11, 2001 attacks and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, where he’s served as a counterterrorism agent for 19 years.
In his early years working in law enforcement, Case saw a need to get emergency medical training, so he invested his time and money into earning EMT and paramedic certifications.
“When I came out of the police academy, I could give basic first aid and that was about it. I was sick of going on calls and I could only treat someone so far,” he said. “I figured if I went to paramedic school, I could treat someone all the way to the hospital.”
This was particularly useful back when most area fire departments were volunteer-only and the response times were longer. Now, most departments, including Monclova, are becoming staffed full time and the response times are much shorter. Case joined Monclova Township Fire and Rescue 22 years ago and is now a captain.
In 2017, he was awarded a Medal of Valor along with Fire Chief Kevin Bernhard and firefighter Tricia Anderson for going above and beyond on a water rescue. He was named Para-medic of the Year in 2006.
For 15 years, his other role has been as an instructor. Case leads classes in firearms training, active threat response and rescue task force planning – when law enforcement personnel take firefighters into an active scene to treat the wounded. As a licensed instructor through the National Association of EMTs, Case also teaches tactical emergency casualty care courses.
When he retires in October 2023 from Home-land Security, Case plans to work part time for the fire department and continue to focus on classes, which he offers throughout Northwest Ohio.
“I love helping people and mentoring the young guys,” he said of the training. “I am doing this to keep them safe. I feel like a big ‘father hen’ sometimes.”
A resident of Monclova since 2006, Case said he tries to be as involved in helping in the community in any way he can, using his abilities and training. A love of learning is a necessity for those who are first responders.
“To me, it’s about keeping people alive. You’ve got to be ready to go in a moment’s notice. The day you stop training you might as well hang it up because if you don’t know what you’re doing, you could get someone killed or get yourself killed,” he admitted. “I’m kind of an adrenaline junkie. If someone has got to do it, I’ll go, even if it’s dangerous. I love helping people on what could be the worst day of their lives.”
The job can be stressful, not just on first responders but also on their families, Case said. His wife, Michelle, has experienced calls in the middle of the night and wondering if he’s OK. This is what all first responders experience – putting their lives on the line for the community, he said.
“Not many people show up to a burning building and run in to rescue someone who doesn’t share the same DNA,” he said. “Even if there’s just a 10-percent chance of getting out alive, they still go in.”