Jose Morales

SAVING LIVES — Jose Morales (center), alongside other Community Howard paramedics, demonstrates how the automated chest compression machine works.

Earlier this month, one of Kokomo’s own was bestowed the title of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Person of the Year in the state of Indiana.

The award was given to U.S. Army veteran Jose Morales by the American Legion of Indiana. Morales, who works at Community Howard Regional Health, said it was a surprise to be given such a prestigious title.

“I didn’t expect it, to be honest with you,” he said. “It is a very good feeling, especially to stand up there with everybody and what everybody has been through in life. I look at it as they paved the way for me. It’s very humbling.”

Morales joined the Community Howard team last March after completing the hospital’s EMT training program. His decision to work in the medical field stemmed from his desire to help others, something he did for 22 years with the army.

He joined the army at age 17 and, for the next 22 years, served in various capacities. He completed tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and worked in the infantry. Some of his duties included rendering medical aid to soldiers out on the battlefield. He also worked as a drill sergeant and would render basic medical aid to soldiers who overheated or suffered from broken bones.

He decided to retire in 2012 at the young age 39 in order to spend more time with his two sons who have Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

“There was a time that I had to call it quits at the age to retire. That’s when I quit and came home for them,” he said.

While he was able to be with his children more after retirement, he realized he still desired to help people. Later, he enrolled in the EMT program with Community Howard in order to give back right where he lived. He was hired by the hospital after completing the program.

Becoming an EMT, he said, was one of the best decisions he’s ever made, as it gives him the best of both worlds.

“I love what I do. Honestly, I do. I really thought coming home I was going to have to work a job where I wouldn’t have time for my children, and working at Community actually gave me—and it still gives me—the time to spend with my children and still love what I do at work. I didn’t have to stress between, ‘Do I give up work to be with my children or do I give up my children to be at work?’ I don’t have to make that decision,” he said.

Mark Jacobs, the EMS manager at Community Howard, said it’s been an asset to have Morales on his team. Not only was his experience dealing with high-intensity situations beneficial, but his ability to speak both English and Spanish also was an added benefit.

In addition to his regular duties, Morales has been called to the emergency department on several occasions to serve as an interpreter.

“Jose is very fluent with Spanish, and there’s been several times that we’ve needed somebody in the ED (emergency department) to communicate, to interpret for us, and he has stepped in and done that several times. I know they’re all very appreciative in the ED for that,” Jacobs said.

The manager also commended Morales’ smooth transition into the medical field with Community Howard.

“It’s difficult coming into a 911 service just right out of EMT school, and I think Jose has made a very easy transition into that role. It’s not always an easy process, but he has done very well and adjusted very well to that,” Jacobs said.