SUNSET -- James Stratton might not have made it without a little help from his friends.
Stratton, 23, a volunteer firefighter with the Sunset City Fire Department and a member of the Utah National Guard, recently came home from a yearlong deployment to Iraq, a deployment that he says would have been a lot more difficult if not for his friends at the fire department.
When Stratton left for Iraq in September 2009, he left behind his wife, Malina, who has cystic fibrosis and finds it hard to move around, even to complete household chores.
"She can't really go outside a lot or work really hard by herself," Stratton said. "She can't lift heavy objects or drive, so we knew it would be tough when I left."
That's when the Sunset Fire Department stepped in.
While Stratton was in Iraq, members of the fire department basically took over all of Stratton's yard work duties. Firefighters mowed and edged his lawn, trimmed his trees, raked leaves, shovelled snow and checked on Malina weekly.
"I kind of figured they would help because that's just the type of people they are, but I didn't have any idea how much they would do," Stratton said. "They even cleaned up after the dog."
Assistant Fire Chief James Weston said firefighters at his station figured it was their duty to help the Strattons.
"That's just what we do," Weston said of the department's helping hand. "We would do the same for any of our other brothers and sisters in the fire department."
Weston said work was split up into shifts, and whenever the firefighters found some extra time, they headed over to the Stratton residence.
"Honestly, it wasn't that big of a deal," he said. "We just decided we would do a few things for them, and then it just became routine for us."
For their efforts, Sunset Fire was recognized with the "Above and Beyond award," which is given out annually by the Utah Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.
The award is to recognize two Utah employers that show outstanding support of a Utah National Guardsman or Reservist.
"The fire department really bent over backward for the Strattons," said Kim Watts, executive director of the Utah ESGR. "That kind of support is so important because it eases the mind of the troops when they go out to battle. They can focus on their mission and not have to worry about who's taking care of their house when they are in a foxhole."