Twins Eric and Daniel Guiffreda are examples of character, commitment and compassion
by lisa tramontana
You won’t find many brothers who are closer than Eric and Daniel Guiffreda. Originally from Ponchatoula, they grew up doing everything together, and today at age 32, are fellow firefighters who have answered many calls to serve and protect others.
“You rarely come across men who are so genuine and have such character,” says colleague Stephen Gibbs. “They have helped a lot of people. Their influence and service goes way beyond the walls of this fire station.”
That’s because the Guiffreda twins have followed a career path that has included military service, first responder status and pastoral care. As they are both fond of saying, the best way to show your love for God is to love other people.
When they were still in junior high, Eric and Daniel joined Young Marines, a program that promotes character, leadership skills, community service and good citizenship. Their involvement with the group, along with being raised in a Christian home, shaped their personalities and hopes for the future. After high school, they joined the U.S. Marines. Eric had never wavered in his decision to enlist, but Daniel wasn’t sure until the last minute. “I had decided not to go,” he said. “And then right before the deadline, I called them up and said, ‘I’ll do it if we can ship out on the buddy system’” (together).
Active duty ended in 2005 and included deployments to Iraq. When the young veterans returned home, they were drawn to careers as firefighters. Daniel received his training in St. Angelo, Texas, and Eric trained at LSU Fire & Emergency Training Institute. Today, (both married with young children), they are paramedics with the Gonzales Fire Department – trained healthcare professionals who provide emergency first aid to fire and disaster victims.
As if their spirit of service weren’t enough, they are both chaplains as well, offering comfort not just to the injured, but to their fellow firefighters whose day-to-day responsibilities can be physically and emotionally overwhelming.
“We’re all extremely close,” said Daniel of his colleagues. “We spend just as much time with each other as we do with our own families. We see a lot of bad things together, and sometimes, you just want to be able to talk to someone who can relate. Eric and I know from our own experience that personal struggles at work can spill over into family life. We know exactly how difficult things can be.”
Eric and Daniel are also members of the Critical Incident Stress Team, affiliated with LSU, and provide mentoring to first responders who need counseling. “They might help someone who is having trouble processing a tragedy or someone who thinks they are at fault in a particular situation,” said Gibbs. “Eric and Daniel have a way of talking to people that calms them and makes them see the value of what they do.”
Dealing with disaster victims is another opportunity for the Guiffredas to practice their faith. Especially as paramedics, they are sometimes faced with death. “Some people just know they are not going to make it,” Eric said. “We pray with them and make sure they know they are not alone. The hardest part of the job is having to tell the family that a loved one has died. In that case, we have to just be there and listen to them, whatever they need to get through it.”
Through their work and their ministries, some basic philosophies have emerged. One of the most important is that every individual is valuable in God’s eyes.
“Some people might have trouble feeling sympathy for a drug addict,” Eric said. “But that person is worthy of love and compassion like anyone else. The way I see it, that person is in bondage. In his heart, this is not what he wants for his life. Think about that and you’ll see the humanity that is there … in everyone.”
And there is only one race … the human race, says Daniel. “The colors of our skin might be different, but we are all created in God’s image. No one is above anyone else.”
Jesus set this example, Daniel added, when he cut through the cultural rules and racism of his time by engaging a Samaritan woman in conversation and meeting her at the point of her deepest need.
“We believe our calling as Christians is to do the same by meeting those who are hurting and directing them to ‘the God of all comfort’ who truly cares about them and who alone can bring them lasting hope.”
It’s really simple, though not easy, the brothers say. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your strength and your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.
“When you see a need, try to meet it,” Eric said. “Every single one of us deserves dignity and respect. And that’s why we should treat each other well. If everyone focused on that, all of our prejudices would fall away.”