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City firefighter follows in his father's, grandfather's steps

Since he's on duty, Kory Tate will celebrate Father's Day today at Lawton Fire Central Station by serving up ice cream to his brothers in the department. By every right, his actual forefathers will be there too. 

Three generations of Tate firefighters do firefighter things together. When a firefighter is featured in a news media photograph, video or story, tradition tells the firefighter to supply ice cream for the fire station's enjoyment. It's the firefighter's price of fame. The elders are invited to join in reaping the reward. Through a combined 45 years of service with the department, they've more than earned their place at the table.

His father, retired Lawton Fire Captain Mark Tate and grandfather retired Deputy Chief Joe Tate will be enjoying a bowl or two. Since they're mentioned and photographed as well, perhaps one will supply syrup and the other sprinkles for the occasion. It's up to them. It's their day. The younger Tate knows it's his day, too.

"It's who I am, it's in my blood," Tate said. "It's what I'm supposed to be doing."

The youngest Tate is only the second third-generation firefighter in the Lawton department's history  Alex Hadley is the other. His brother also served in the department for a while before leaving the profession. That was his fate for a short while before returning to the department his year. 

How many variations to the tale of the "Prodigal Son" can be told? Tate's tale is new yet ageless.

After joining Lawton Fire Department in 2007, he left in 2012. The five years and youth pressed him to follow other notions. He said it was more about finding himself. On a journey that trekked from Montana to Africa and possibly somewhere near Timbuktu, the road home continued its siren's call. After some time and experiences, he answered that call.

"I went out and found myself and came back a better person," Tate said. "I missed it. I missed this job a lot."

"That all led me just to come back home," he said

Growing up in a multi-generational home of firefighters, Tate said his father and, grandfather before him, kept the dangers of the job a minimal topic of discussion. Closely bonded, he said his father would open up more about the rigors  and precariousness  of the job as he grew older and more interested in the field. 

Retiring in 2013 following 25 years of service, Mark Tate accumulated a lot of wisdom. From his father's experience and also from really listening his grandfather Joe Tate, knowledge formed. The youngest Tate also found the eldest to be a rock of support. What the two men didn't do was push him into the profession. They allowed him to "become" on his own. Parenting is about guiding your children to be able to make their own decisions about their life.

The Lawton Constitution

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