ORLANDO, Fla. - As Independence Day approaches, News 6 is honoring first responders in Central Florida, including emergency medical technicians.
EMTs are often the first ones at the scene of a crash. Looking back on his decision to choose that line of work, Robert Soto said it was those images that triggered his desire to help others.
"My job is to make sure the apparatus and patient gets to the hospital," Soto, a 21-year-old EMT for the Orlando Fire Department, said.
Soto is the newest EMT member for the city, and he said he couldn't be more proud of that title.
Soto began in the Explorer Post, a unique program for teens looking into a career in firefighting.
"Going to car accidents, going to CPR calls, going to fire calls -- through all of that, through that experience, that short amount of time, the four years of experience, it solidified it for me," he said.
Soto said there is nothing but love among the firefighters.
"The family that we have here is like a second family. I don't think I would see myself here if I didn't have this Explorer Post. If it wasn't for Explorer Post, I wouldn't be here," Soto said.
He said the experience allowed him to see real-life situations firsthand during ride-alongs.
"When we get there, the feeling that someone has when they look at you and you're helping them is what I love," Soto said.
Soto said he remembers the first time he had to do CPR on a patient.
"Once we got there, I already had my CPR certification, so the firefighters told me, 'Start doing compressions,'" Soto said. "At that moment, for me, was, the moment where I was, like, 'This is, this is exactly what I want to do.'"
Born to Puerto Rican parents, Soto found a role model in his father, who served in the military and now works for the Orlando Fire Department.
"As a child, I was exposed to the firetrucks and he would bring me and show me the firetrucks. Through his role in the city and his leadership in the city, I saw that and I just wanted to aspire as him," Soto said.
Soto now gets to live out those childhood dreams at Fire Station No. 2, where he's in charge of making sure the ambulance is ready to go when a call comes in.
As Central Florida prepares to celebrate America's independence, Soto said he has no doubt this is where he's meant to be.
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"To me, Fourth of July is freedom. I get to do -- not whatever I want -- but I get to pursue what I want and no one can tell (me) yes or no about it. For me, it's everything that I, as an American, I can get. I just have to pursue it and work hard for it," Soto said.
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