On May 19, 1998, Chicago Fire Department Firefighter Eugene W. Blackmon, Jr., was working a routine assignment when he and his unit received a call that there was a drowning incident in the Little Calumet River. Blackmon went into the river that day, tirelessly searching for the reported two missing men. While displaying courage, selflessness and bravery, Blackmon would, unfortunately, not resurface alive. He was pronounced dead nearly three hours later at The Christ Hospital emergency room.
In his honor from that heroic day, the department created the Eugene Blackmon award to be given to a firefighter candidate at graduation who displayed leadership qualities.
Eder Campos, a Marine veteran, was the recipient of the award during the Candidate Firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician graduation ceremony, Feb. 15, at Chicago’s Aon Grand Ballroom on the Navy Pier.
A humble Campos attributed the recognition to his fellow candidates.
“It’s a great honor and I honestly didn’t expect to win it,” said Campos. “It recognizes leadership, qualities and traits of an outstanding firefighter, just like Eugene Blackmon. It’s voted on by my peers, so I owe it all to them who helped me out just as much as I helped them.”
Before pursuing a career as a firefighter, Campos worked as a motor transportation mechanic for the Marine Corps from 2004 to 2014. He deployed overseas four times and received numerous awards.
“We deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom in the summer of 2013,” said Capt. Keith Raine, the Recruiting Station Baton Rouge executive officer and mentor to Campos. “He is the epitome of what we ask for in Marine Corps leaders. It doesn’t surprise me at all that he was going to rise to the top. It’s such a pleasure for me to work with him and lead him and he’s honestly one of the most inspiring Marines I’ve had the privilege to be around.”
In addition to his numerous accomplishments, Campos had the support of leaders who he served under.
“When we received his file, [Campos] had recommendations from not just his unit leader, but from majors and colonels praising him and saying what a great asset he would be to any fire service that he joined,” said Lt. Brian Kulaga, a member of the Cicero Fire Department and mentor to Campos. “We’ve learned Marines make the best firefighters. He’s worried about winning this award, wondering if he should’ve gotten it. But, it’s well deserved and just another step to continued greatness in his life. We’re lucky to have him.”
Campos found, during his time in the Marines, there are some things he’s able to take and apply to his new career field.
“In the fire service, we have to work together as a team, we won’t accomplish anything unless we’re working together,” said Campos. “That’s something that was instilled in me by the Marine Corps.”
Campos begins his childhood dream as a firefighter and emergency medical technician with his first assignment with the Chicago Fire Department Engine Company 95. Although he has moved on, Campos says he will always be thankful for everything the Marine Corps taught him.
“It’s where it all began, but I’m looking forward to bigger and better things,” said Campos with a smile.
Story by Cpl. Jennifer Webster