Myrtle Beach Firefighter, CrossFit Athlete Making a Difference on the Strand | Working for a Living

Jacqueline Perez and Daniel Perez. Courtesy photo.
Jacqueline Perez and Daniel Perez. Courtesy photo.

Daniel Perez, born and raised in Philadelphia, shipped out to Heidelberg, Germany right after high school. He spent five years in the U.S. Army on active duty in the Military Police Corps.

“Where I was stationed, it was an honor guard company,” he said. “We did ceremonial stuff like salute batteries in honor of fallen comrades in Luxembourg and Belgium – and did color guard, law enforcement and protective services.” This included working in close detail for the four-star general that also happened to be stationed in Heidelberg.

The Grand Strand came into the picture when Perez started talking to his parents from Germany. He said they were getting ready to retire and wanted to move south to warmer temperatures and into a different environment from Philadelphia, deciding on Myrtle Beach. Perez gave his word to his father that he would help them settle and find a home here.

So here he was – taking advantage of his G.I. Bill college benefits and knocking out prerequisites at both Horry-Georgetown Technical College and Coastal Carolina University – and watching over his father’s new house until he sold his Philadelphia home and moved down.

Along the way, he met his now wife Jacqueline Perez at a local CrossFit gym – and this changed things up a bit.

“I needed to take care of her and our housing arrangements [while she completed her physical therapy program at HGTC] – so I had to get some sort of serious career, and that’s how I found the fire department,” he said.

Actually – he went on the City of Myrtle Beach’s web site, noticing what he said were many employment opportunities – but the one that stood out like a beacon for him was for the firefighter position.

He was working part time at CrossFit Driving Formations in Myrtle Beach at the time, and both of the owners there, Tadd Rubin and Dwayne Harris, are also firefighters with the Myrtle Beach Fire Department. He put in his application – and soon later took a written test with more than 300 other applicants.

“There were like 20 open spots, and I didn’t initially get it,” he said. “In the meantime I was working for Dunbar [Armored]. About a month or two later, I got an email back that I made it in – and from there we did the fitness test, drug testing and background checks – and I made it to the academy at the beginning of this year.”

His initial perceptions about the actual job of firefighter changed in the academy.

“When I went to the academy – I really found out that the term ‘fire department’ is only part of it. It’s really an all-hazards department because we do everything – every kind of rescue or call that you can imagine – from medical calls to water rescue to hazardous materials. It’s not just confined to fire – and that’s what kind of amazes me. That’s why people love firefighters all-around – that they are there to help in any situation. It really boosted my morale and my overall decision to join.”

Perez was introduced to CrossFit about a year after he moved here. He said it was a lot of fun and high-intensity, but a standout quality was the social interaction and sense of community.

“It is the same kind of camaraderie in the military,” he said.

“It has changed my body a whole lot,” he said, adding that the main idea behind CrossFit is functionality.

“It’s being able to keep moving to those natural, ideal positions that we need to go through in everyday life for as long as we live. The one thing that I think would suck the most is for anybody to live the last ten years of their lives in a wheelchair or in a nursing home with no mobility or functionality. For me personally, I want to live the rest of my life being able to walk my dog around the park. I would be happy.”

Last year, he competed in the UpDog Summer Challenge, the CrossFit component of the Native Sons Salt Games. This year he will be rooting for his wife, who will be competing for the first time this year.

Perez plans on pursuing an environmental management degree.

“I don’t even know if the resources in years to come are going to be able to be enough to sustain this huge population,” he said, adding that he is interested in urban farming, renewable energy and other sustainable methodologies.

“Supporting our local economy and taking care of our neighbors is very important to me. “We all have addresses, but our real home address is our planet. We have got to take care of one another and take care of this place – because this is all we have.”

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