Memorial Day service
Meghan Persico, a firefighter for the Navy and the town of Warwick, watches as shipmates take a swim off the deck of the USS George HW Bush, the aircraft supercarrier on which she's stationed.
Warwick firefighters salute their colleague, Meghan Persico, who is currently serving in the Navy aboard the aircraft "supercarrier" USS George HW Bush.
WARWICK — Firefighter Meghan Persico will spend her Memorial Day on the Mediterranean Sea.
It’s no pleasure cruise.
Persico, 20, is stationed aboard the USS George HW Bush, a Nimitz-class “supercarrier” aircraft carrier named for the country’s 41st president.
She’s using some of the skills she learned at the Warwick Fire Department in her service to the country.
Persico is a flight deck firefighter, also referred to more glamorously as a “crash and salvage crewman,” at the rank of aviation boatswain’s mate handler.
Her service lets her carry on two family traditions.
“My grandfathers were firefighters and served in the military, and one of them was on a submarine during Vietnam,” Persico said, adding that several of her aunts and uncles are also firefighters.
Her brother, Jacob Cooke, is following in her firefighting footsteps, and has joined the department as a junior.
Persico signed up for the Warwick Fire Department at the young age of 15 and served as a junior firefighter until she turned 18, going on to join the department as a full volunteer member.
“I miss the department,” she said. “I talk about it all of the time with the guys here, because most of them have never been firefighters before.”
She said they haven’t had to tackle any on-ship fires yet, but are ever vigilant, standing watch in their turnout gear on rotating shifts.
Persico had several reasons to join the Navy.
“I joined the Navy last year, because I wanted to see the world and try something new, while also being someone my younger cousins and siblings could look up to,” she said.
While family was a big part of her decision, Persico had to leave them if she wanted to serve in the Navy. Deployed for the last three months, she’s starting to miss them.
“Deployment isn’t that bad,” she said. “The worst thing is just being away from home, and being out in the middle of the sea can get boring at times.”
One perk of her foreign service is a sure-fire distraction from homesickness, though: shore leave in a faraway land.
“So far, we’ve seen Greece, Turkey, Bahrain and Dubai,” she said. “I love my job, and being able to see new things every day.”
There’s also the excitement of watching jets take off and land on the floating flight deck.
“How many people can say they’ve gotten to watch that?” she pondered.
Like those jets, Persico’s future is up in the air. She’s not sure if she’ll return to civilian life when her enlistment is up, or make a career of the service.
“I’m not sure how long I plan on staying on,” she said. “I’ll see where my first five years take me.”
She does plan to continue serving her neighbors as a firefighter — she just might have a lot more neighbors to serve when she settles down.
“When all is said and done, it’s my goal to be a part of the Boston Fire Department,” she said. “I’m hoping my career in the Navy will help get me there.”
Though she’s half a world away now, and has big-city plans later in life, Persico said she won’t forget her small-town roots.
“I still visit the Fire Department when I’m home on leave, and participate in trainings,” she said. “I’d like to believe I’ll always be a part of it.”
Her colleagues at the Warwick Fire Department haven’t forgotten her, either.
Last week, they decorated the station to honor Persico and other Warwick veterans and active-duty service members, and took a group photo for her, so they could be with her in spirit on the high seas.
She’ll get the chance to see them again in November, when her current deployment ends.
You can reach David Rainville at: email@example.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 279 @RecorderRain