They’re not the ones running into burning buildings anymore. Those days are over. They are, however, the ones sounding the siren and driving volunteer firefighters to those burning buildings and ambulance calls.
Two Freeport firefighters — Edward Martin, 72, and Anthony Basile, 68 — were recently honored for 50 years of service to the Freeport Fire Department’s Vigilant Hose Company No. 2.
Neither has plans to retire from the department anytime soon. “We still have work to do,” Martin said.
Looking back at the past five decades, the two said they have remained with the department through the decades out of an old-fashioned sense of responsibility to their hometown.
Basile was 12 years old when his family moved to Freeport from Brooklyn. Once he graduated from Freeport High School in 1967 and started attending Hofstra University, he decided he would stay in Freeport through college.
Eventually Basile got married and bought a starter home in the area. Laughing at the memory, he said he told his wife that they would live in Freeport for five years and then move. Thirty-eight years later, they remain in the village. They raised two daughters in Freeport. One is now married to the Bellmore Fire Department chief.
“I love Freeport,” Basile said. “I think that’s why I never left.”
Martin was born and raised in Freeport. After high school, he joined the Navy. During his time in the military, he served as a firefighter, and when he was discharged in 1968, he came home. Shortly afterward, he joined the Fire Department, at age 21.
“People leave Freeport only to come back,” Martin said.
Two months after he joined, the 18-year-old Basile did as well. He was working part-time at a local grocery store, and eventually earned his bachelor’s degree from Hofstra. Basile went on to become a Freeport High School social studies teacher, and retired in 2010.
Martin became a Petro air-conditioning and heating service technician in Hicksville, and retired in 2011. All through the years, the two juggled work, family and firefighting.
They have been at Hose Company No. 2, at 15 Broadway, since their first day in the department. Back then, Basile said, training requirements were “six hours and then you were a fireman.” Now, training involves hours of study and preparation, which continues throughout one’s career.
“Eddie and I have been close since about Day One,” Basile said. Firefighters “have been my extended family.”
Basile has served as a captain, first lieutenant, second lieutenant and trustee of Hose No. 2, as well as a warden and member of the Fire Council. Martin has been a captain, first lieutenant and treasurer of the company, and a captain and lieutenant of the fire police.
“We support each other,” Martin said. “We’ve been here for each other through life’s trials and tribulations the last 50 years.”
Martin’s son, Edward III, is also a volunteer.
Sticking with the avocation for five decades requires dedication and the ability to balance firefighting and family, both men said. “Most people come and go, because they get married, move away or get new jobs since we’ve joined,” Basile said. “It’s a sacrifice.”
And then there’s the inevitability of old age, and what follows. “Thank you for not dying,” Martin cracked to his friend.
“You, too,” Basile replied. “Thank you for not dying either.”