FAREWELL WAYNE, We Will Miss You, reads the sign outside the Sykesville Freedom Fire Department on Route 32.
Wayne Garver, an emergency medical services and firefighter responder for the Sykesville Freedom department, is also a chief petty officer in the Navy.
He is being deployed out of Earl, N.J., and will be stationed on the USS Seattle for 3 1/2 years, acting as the ship's damage control chief.
The Seattle covers an area from the East Coast to the Mediterranean. It is a supply ship, providing fuel and ammunition to other U.S. vessels.
As chief, Garver will direct 15 to 20 people and oversee all firefighting systems and their maintenance.
All in the family
Garver is a fourth-generation member of the Sykesville Freedom Fire Department. His great-grandfather was Ray McElroy, one of the two original police officers in the town of Sykesville and a life member of the Fire Department.
His grandfather, George Rosier, was also a life member, and his father, Herbert Garver, was a member before moving to North Carolina.
Garver said that when he returns from his deployment, he will resume work with the Fire Department and become a life member.
Garver has a career of service spanning nearly two decades. In 1983, he joined the Fire Department. Two years later, he joined the Navy in a sea/shore rotation of 3 1/2 years per rotation. From 1985 to 1989, he was assigned to the John F. Kennedy. From 1989 to 1993, he worked at the Pentagon as a security officer. From 1993 to 1996, he boarded the John Rogers out of Florida, and from 1996 to this year, he taught Naval Leadership Training in Virginia.
Each time Garver returned from sea, he resumed his work at the Fire Department. Garver says his life has been interesting, although he misses his family when he's away.
When he reaches a port, whether in the United States or abroad, Garver seeks out the local fire department.
He has ridden the trucks in France with firefighters, and after returning seven years later to the same port, he found out he was in their photo album and featured on a firefighting calendar.
Garver has twice received the Community Volunteer Service Medal from the Navy for community volunteer work.
A few weeks before he left for duty Aug. 28, Garver's wife, Wendy, gave him a surprise farewell party at the Sykesville firehall.
Garver believed he was helping the Ladies Auxiliary with a wedding. His mother, Linda Shell, aunt Rita Lamb and grandmother Frances Rosier are members of the auxiliary, and he went there to help with the beverages. Instead, 130 friends and family members were there to wish Garver well.
"It's hard when people ask if Wayne's leaving for a month. They don't realize it's three and one half years. ... All weekend before he left, one of us was in tears," Wendy said.
Garver's 9-year-old daughter, Sarah, will await his return as well.