For Kris Kearns, it is an honor to serve the area that he grew up in.
The 53-year-old Kearns, who grew up in Boulder Hill in Kendall County and is a 1989 Oswego High School graduate, is a lieutenant at the Oswego Fire Protection District, which serves the communities of Oswego, Montgomery, Yorkville and Plainfield.
“Being here gives me an opportunity to give back to veterans.”— Gulf War veteran Kris Kearns
He has been with the fire protection district since 2001. The Oswego resident also is starting his third year as commander of American Legion Post 675 in downtown Oswego.
“Being here gives me an opportunity to give back to veterans,” Kearns said. “It is all about serving others.”
He served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1989 to 1993 as was part of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
“I always had a feeling that I was going to serve as soon as I graduated from high school,” he said. “My grandfather served. He was in Pearl Harbor. My stepdad had served and I had an uncle that served. It was just something that I was drawn to.”
During Operation Desert Shield/Storm, Kearns was part of Task Force Grizzly.
“Our responsibility was to spearhead an assault into Kuwait City,” Keans said. “We were a foot mobile unit going through. And then behind us were Task Force Ripper and Task Force Tarawa. They would come up from behind us in vehicles and then branch off.”
His assignment involved trekking through the desert for almost a month. During the day, temperatures would soar past 100 degrees.
“It took a period of time, because we started in Saudi Arabia and we literally walked to Kuwait,” he said. “It was a foot mobile unit. We were spearheading a path for mechanized forces to come in from behind.”
His military experience taught him many things.
“The military taught me how to be a part of something bigger than yourself and to put others before yourself,” Kearns said.
When he got out of the Marine Corps, Kearns started exploring what he wanted to do for a career. He decided he wanted to be a firefighter.
“The fire department is very prideful and it’s a team effort,” he said. “Once again, you’re putting others before yourself. It’s very exciting. It changes from day to day. It was a natural fit.”
He also owns a real estate business in Oswego with his wife, Traci. That however, is more of a part-time gig.
“I help out more behind the scenes, where my wife totally runs the business,” Kearns said.
American Legion Post 675 is involved in many community activities, including helping put on cruise nights in downtown Oswego as well as holding a fish fry on Friday nights. The post also hosts bingo on Wednesday nights, which has proved to be very popular over the years.
“It is one of the things that people enjoy coming to the Legion to do,” Kearns said.
Oswego Fire Protection District Fire Chief John Cornish said Kearns has been an asset to the district.
“He’s currently assigned as the support services officer, so he supports the administrative side of things,” Cornish said. “He sometimes is the face of the organization because he’s going out and doing talks and things of that nature. He does fire safety talks and things like that. It really does help with him being so involved and interconnected in the community. Clearly, the fire department is here for the community and to serve the community and it’s nice to be able to work well with other organizations and businesses within the community and it’s nice to have those contacts.”