For probationary firefighter Banny Chen, it was a grit and determination born from sorrow and pain. Every turn of the hydrant stem nut and every tug of the fire hose was bred from monumental loss.
"I hope Danny is still watching over me, but it's been 10 years, it's been 10 years," Chen said.
Chen, 27, was talking about his cousin Army Private Danny Chen. He was bullied, racially taunted and brutally hazed by his own squad -- for being Chinese-American.
The 19-year-old from Chinatown took his own life two months into his deployment to Afghanistan.
Eight U.S. soldiers were charged and four were court martialed.
A decade later, his cousin, at the FDNY academy on Randall's Island decided to become a firefighter to fee closer to him.
"I understood the training would be similar to what my cousin Danny went through," Chen said. "I had some deep thoughts about wanting to experience what Danny went through. Wanting to connect with him, when I wasn't there with him."
Chen reflected on some of his memories of his cousin.
"Every vacation, every winter, every summer vacation, he'd either come over to Brooklyn to sleep over or I'd go over to Manhattan to sleep over his place," Chen said. "We played card games together, throw a handball around, and that would be our whole weekend."
Danny dreamt of becoming an NYPD officer after the Army.
So Wednesday morning, just days before the 10-year anniversary of his cousin's death, Banny walked across the stage as part of the probationary firefighter class of 2021.
He carried the torch and added another chapter to the family's legacy of service - and turned tragedy into triumph.
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