From the front lines of Iraq to front lines of EMS service
Local paramedic/EMT Martin "Marty" Theurer brings a wealth of experience to his profession, but he also brought a wealth of knowledge to his military career because of his volunteer work with fire service.
Theurer had already been in fire service as a volunteer four years when he joined the Oregon Army National Guard. It helped prepare him for the trauma and tragedy he would later experience in Iraq. In turn, his time in Iraq would act in a reciprocal way to prepare him for his full-time career as a paramedic/EMT after the military service.
Theurer grew up in Philomath. It is a small community with a population of approximately 4,500 people.
"While I was a kid there growing up, the community was very supportive of the youth in the community," commented Theurer of the close-knit locality.
He added that this included youth programs such as sports, scouting, 4-H, or any youth program that occurred in the community.
"When I graduated high school, I was looking for a way to give back to the community, after the community had given so much to me," he said.
Theurer had done some community service for the fire department for school and for Boy Scouts, and he decided to join the local department as a volunteer while attending college at Western Oregon University.
"It just felt right. I enjoyed being a volunteer at the fire department, and I enjoyed helping people in need and serving the community," he emphasized of his reasons for joining as a volunteer.
While in college, he reached a point that it was necessary to declare a major, and he declared a major in business with a minor in public policy. He also had reached the decision to make fire service his career.
"I knew that both of those would help me in the future in the fire service, and I knew that was the route that I wanted to go--was to be a paramedic and work in emergency services."
He was going to school on a scholarship, and when it ran out, he needed two terms to complete his bachelor's degree and needed his associate's for his paramedic training. He was reluctant to take out loans or accrue any debt. Theurer was acquainted with some military veterans from the National Guard in the fire department.
"I looked at the National Guard as an opportunity to continue my service and pay for me to finish my college education," he reflected of his decision to join the military.
In 1998, Theurer joined the Oregon Army National Guard and wanted to do his drill weekends in Corvallis where he grew up and where there were some people he already knew in the National Guard.
"That was kind of a whirlwind of a year, and I finished my finals on a Thursday, and the following Tuesday, I was on my way to Georgia for bootcamp and Advanced Individual Training (AIT). I was gone 13 weeks to Fort Benning, Georgia, and when I came home the following Tuesday, I started classes. That was my summer vacation. I literally went from a final to bootcamp and AIT, to right back into school."
He was gone 101 days from home that summer and had never been gone that long prior to that time. Although he didn't find the routine and discipline too difficult, Theurer reflected that it was probably what he needed at the time.
"The military really emphasized and reinforced that sense of discipline and chain of command and regimented daily life," he emphasized.
He was 22 years old when he joined the National Guard and had been in college for four years, learning how to become an adult.
"The military helped shape and mold me into the person that I am today, with the discipline and integrity to do what you say and say what you do and do all that," Theurer went on to say. "The military really defined that and gave me responsibility and showed me I could do what I needed to do and get it done and work through it."
After basic training, he came back and completed his bachelor's degree at Western Oregon University and started spring term at Chemeketa Community College to begin his EMT certification and degree. During his college education, he also volunteered at the fire department, developing fire skills and fire certifications. While in Chemeketa, he was able to focus on his paramedic/EMT training and received his certification in 2001.
Theurer stated that his fire experience as a volunteer also helped him prepare for things that happened in the military. He was deployed to Iraq from 2003 until 2005. Initially, he was deployed to Fort Hood, Texas, then to Fort Polk, Louisiana, for training prior to deployment to Iraq.
"We actually deployed in March of 2004 to Iraq. I was in Iraq from 2004 to 2005. We were part of what is considered Operation Iraq Freedom 2 (OIF2), meaning we were the second group to be stationed or deployed there," he explained.
He was in the country close to one year. He indicated that the things that he saw and experienced in the fire department helped him prepare for things he experienced in the military.
"Tragedy, massive trauma, death—those types of tragic things, probably, I dealt with better because of my fire department experience. Consequently, what I saw and experienced in the military probably allowed me to have that separation when it comes to the EMS and fire experiences."
Theurer explained that being able to compartmentalize isn't easily done, but it helps to separate the here and now from past and future events. He said that he does have his share of PTSD and he gets professional help to handle it in positive ways.
While in Iraq, the Humvee Theurer was in was hit with an IED.Â He sustained injuries and was awarded a Purple Heart from the injuries he received in that explosion. He separated from the military in 2008 as a Sergeant E5, and served with the 2/162, Second Battalion, 162nd Infantry. His experiences in Iraq were later picked up by author John Bruning in his book, "Devil's Sandbox."
Bruning includes interviews based on Theurer and others' memories and experiences in Iraq. Theurer was an infantry soldier in the National Guard while in Iraq. He was in the front lines and did a great deal of patrolling and site security. They were often mounted on Humvees. He also spent time as a dismounted soldier.
After nine years, he felt like it was the right time to separate from the service.
"I wanted to have a family, and I wanted to build and develop my fire service career. I felt that I had already done my fair share of service through the military by being there nine years. It was the right time for me to separate and leave the military," Theurer stated of his decision to resume civilian life.
Theurer is currently paramedic/EMT for the Crook County Fire and Rescue. He has been practicing for 20 years, first in McMinnville Fire Department until 2017. He came to Crook County in 2017.
"I had a desire and interest to promote within the fire service and found an opportunity in Prineville at Crook County Fire and Rescue as a shift officer," he said.
He currently serves at Powell Butte, until he rotates to another station in three months. He emphasized that in the fire department, there is a close comradery with his peers.
"It's a family, because we spend in a way, one third of our lives with those people," he concluded. "So there very much is a comradery or a family-type atmosphere within the fire department because you work with those people so closely, and you share experiences with them of the highs and the lows—the tragedy of death or traumatic events, you share with those people very closely. And the happiness—the 'Hey, we did a good job today and we saved a life, or we brought a life into the world delivering a baby.' We share those experiences with each other very closely."
Lt. Marty Theurer
Served Oregon Army National Guard
Served in Operation Iraq Freedom 2 (OIF2) 2004-2005
Received Purple Heart from injuries sustained in an IED while in Iraq
Served with 2/162 Second Battalion, 162nd Infantry
Was honorably discharged as Sergeant E-5
Currently is employed by Crook County Fire and Rescue as a paramedic/EMT
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