EASTOVER, S.C. -- Soldiers join the military for many reasons, including family traditions, idols they've seen in the media, or to make their childhood dreams come true.

For South Carolina Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Jessica Thibeau, exposure to the military came from all over -- a family filled with combat veterans, a community full of Vietnam veterans and a television show.

"No laughing, but when I was 4 years old I loved a show called 'Emergency,'" Thibeau said. "It was based on the first paramedics in the U.S. out in Los Angeles County, California."

DESIRE TO SERVE

"That was in 1974," she added. "There were not any female firefighters back then. My mom, however, never told me that. She always told me I could be whatever I wanted. I actually got a ton of Tonka fire trucks and ambulances that year for Christmas because that is all I wanted. Becoming a combat medic was just a natural progression."

After serving on active duty and 20 years as a civilian paramedic, Thibeau decided in 2005 to join the Army National Guard, thus offering her combined civilian-military experience in trauma response and emergency and critical care to the Guard.

Initially, Thibeau became a combat medic with the Maine Army National Guard, 133rd Engineer Battalion. Next, she joined a medevac unit with Charlie Company, 1st General Support Aviation Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, also in Maine. That was a career decision that later led her to a transfer to the South Carolina Army National Guard as a critical care flight paramedic with 59th Aviation Troop Command.

Throughout her 18 years of military service, Thibeau has saved numerous lives, including two while performing as an element of the South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team.

FIREFIGHTING MISSIONS

She flew numerous fire-containment missions during the Pinnacle Mountain wildfires in November 2016, and she saved countless lives as a paramedic. As a civilian and a soldier she exemplifies positivity in her community and serving with dedication and proficiency in the military.

"The standard answer is always to help people," Thibeau said. "I do love walking in on someone's absolute worst day and making it a little, if not a lot, better. This job gives you a positive outlet to get that adrenaline rush while having a positive impact on others."

She added, "Whether it is saving their home, their loved one having a heart attack, or bringing another soldier home from combat to their family, there is no greater feeling in the world to me than knowing you made a difference."