New East Texas firefighters graduate with difficult memory - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

New East Texas firefighters graduate with difficult memory

By Taylor Hemness - email

It was a hard lesson that gave East Texas' newest firefighters a new sense of unity.

The class was on the campus in January when Kilgore firefighters Kyle Perkins and Cory Galloway fell to their death during a training exercise on the Kilgore College campus.

Mike Earley has been the dean of the Kilgore College Fire Academy since it started twenty years ago.

But he says this graduation, and this class, are unique.

"They saw the impact that two firemen, that came through this academy, and worked for the Kilgore Fire Department, could have on the community," Earley says.

After Galloway and Perkins were killed, Earley says the class became closer than ever. They also took it upon themselves to dedicate this graduation to the fallen firefighters. 

Kilgore Fire Chief Dennis Gage says that while tragic, the accident taught this class the meaning of family.

"Those guys eat together, they sleep together, they depend on each other, and they get real close knit, and it's just like another family," Gage says. "And when you lose two of your brothers, it's like losing part of the family."

Graduates told KLTV that rather than making them reconsider their decision, the accident renewed their commitment to serve.

"We all talked about it in class, and obviously just decided that we were going to train harder, so that something like that wouldn't happen in our future," said class president and salutatorian Katherine Parcher.

"It woke us up to the dangers of this job, and the sacrifice that these men and women make every single day, even in something as simple as a training exercise," said graduate Lukas Reynolds. "It really helped us all to focus in a lot more on our studies and our safety, and how we were going to protect each other."

But Galloway and Perkins will leave their mark on future students as well, after Chief Gage presented a pair of plaques honoring the two, that will hang in the academy classroom.

The school is also planning a new monument and flag pole to honor Galloway, Perkins, and other students and teachers affiliated with the academy.

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