Lt. Joe Graham Jr. with the Vicksburg Fire Department is passionate about one thing, and that passion is family.
“When it comes to my home life, I do everything with my family,” Graham said.
Graham, 51, is married with two children. But beyond his home, his family includes the men and women he works with. That aspect of the job is how Graham copes with being a firefighter.
“We are a family from the chief all the way down to the newest guy on the scene. It’s truly a family,” Graham said. “We’ve been through good times, bad times, happy times and sad times just like families.”
May 10 marked 25 years Graham has been with the Vicksburg Fire Department. When asked how he got started in firefighting, family once again played a factor.
“My uncle, who was on the fire department, told me and my cousin, ‘If you two knuckleheads can pass the physical agility test, the department is hiring,’ and the rest is history,” Graham said.
“I absolutely love my job, but I never thought I would stick to something this long,” he added.
Six years into his tenure, a major event shook him to his core. That event happened Sept. 11, 2001.
“I was on duty that day. We were all glued to the TV, and I watched all my brothers and sisters run into that building not knowing what was going to happen,” Graham said. “That day—that moment—changed everything for me. It changed my life, my career, my everything.”
Holding true to his family roots, Graham said he and the other firefighters strive for one basic goal for every shift.
“Stay safe, take care of the community and return home to your family at the end of every shift,” he said.
Graham is not a firefighter for the glory or awards. He does it because it is his job and his purpose.
“I don’t consider myself a hero,” Graham said. “I don’t feel like I’m a hero. I’m just doing what I’m called to do and what I like to do. I never need the recognition.”