Editor's note: The following commentary was written as part of contest sponsored by Dr. Ben Carson of Johns Hopkins, which challenged young people to write about their heroes.

During the last few years I have had the chance to meet several volunteer firefighters. From getting to know them I have determined that they are true heroes to their communities and to me. This group of volunteers are often overlooked and not thought of as heroes.

In my county there are over 20 volunteer firefighter companies. There is only one fire station that pays their firefighters. The rest of the county relies on the men and women that spend their time to serve our community. More of these people should be appreciated for the time that they spend risking their lives for us.

Firefighters also help out with several other things in their towns. They are in many parades. In the summer they bring water in their fire trucks to fill people's swimming pools. Some of the volunteers I know have rescued cats stuck up in trees. They also go out and help people get water out of their basements when it floods. Hours are also spent on training so that they are ready to help people when needed. These are just a few of the things they do in addition to fighting fires.

Not only do the firefighters fight fires but they also spend many hours on things to keep the fire station in top shape. A lot of money is needed to buy equipment and keep the truck running. They work all year on fundraisers to have money for the fire department. Some of the things they do to raise money are have pancake breakfasts, spaghetti dinners and raffles. Hours are spent on training so that they are ready to help people when needed.

Firefighters risk hurting themselves with every call for help they go out on. When they enter a burning building they breathe in the smoke that can cause very serious damage to their lungs. The buildings are very unstable and at any minute the firefighter can be hurt with objects falling on them. The worst thing of all is a firefighter getting trapped in a fire and dying. They know the risks, but they still do anything they can to save people.

Volunteer firefighters are truly needed in this world. If we didn't have them there would be many lives lost because of a house fire or an accident. Everybody should be thankful for all of the volunteer firefighters. I know that I am and I hope that you are. They are real American heroes to this country and to me.

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