ORLANDO, Fla. - For Ceasar Mustelier, giving back to his country while in the military was, in part, an act of gratitude.
"My parents were Cuban immigrants. They came here with basically nothing and they were able to make a life for themselves because of the opportunity the country gave them, so I wanted to give a little bit of that back," the 36-year-old Mustelier said.
Mustelier enlisted in 2000 right before the nation experienced the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001 -- a challenging time, he recalls.
"That was difficult, definitely difficult, but also gratifying in a sense that you were able to be there with your brothers and sisters," he said.
While in active duty with the U.S. Army, he was deployed twice overseas as a Humvee gunner for convoy security. That was an experience he enjoyed but one that kept him away from home. After six years, he decided to leave active duty to become a firefighter.
"The fire service gives you that brotherhood and sisterhood that you're used to in the military. (It) gives you a chance to make a difference in a community the way you were doing before," Mustelier said.
Mustelier, a father of two, maintains his commitment to serving his country now with the U.S. Army Reserve. A little more than a year ago, he took on a new challenge and moved from South Florida to work in Orlando.
"The Orlando Fire Department is known throughout the country as one of the best and I wanted to be part of one of the best" said Mustelier with great pride.
He said that being a firefighter allows him to continue to serve his desire to help others and also stay close to his loved ones a separation that was difficult for him while active duty in the Army.
"Family is a big part of my life, always has been, and the active duty Army, for me, wasn't very conducive to that lifestyle," Mustelier said.
As we remember those who have died and the ones who still fight for our country on July Fourth this week, Mustelier takes time to reflect.
"It's more than a holiday for me," Mustelier said. "The Fourth of July is a time to remember the hardships, I believe -- the hardships my brothers and sisters went through so that we could celebrate like we do."
Copyright 2018 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.