Ryan Sabata’s commitment to serving the public has never been about chasing the spotlight, so it was no surprise while accepting the American Legion Hartman Post’s “Firefighter of the Year” award, he spoke about everyone else.
Sabata, a veteran Columbus firefighter paramedic, was one of several individuals recognized during the American Legion Hartman Post 84’s 104th-year birthday celebration Saturday night that brought out dozens of community leaders and residents.
“Being given an award from the members of the American Legion is humbling considering the sacrifices many in that room made,” Sabata said, reflecting on the honor a couple of days later. “The fire service is team-oriented and it takes everyone on that team to complete any given mission. To be singled out as an individual and separate from the great work of the men and women next to you is an honor that is not taken lightly. Many do not enter this line of work as a way to receive praise. If they do, they will quickly become disappointed.
“The public will never truly understand the risks taken and the time given by these individuals. It takes special people to willingly go through and experience the work they do.”
The David City native is no stranger to public service and firefighting, as like many others in the Midwest, he grew up around family members that were highly involved in their communities. Sabata would often follow his father to various community meetings, including the David City Rural Fire Board ones as his dad served on it.
“Public service is especially important to small communities, where the full spectrum of resources are oftentimes not available to achieve the level of services needed to make a community work,” Sabata said. “Public service has always been important in my family and family members ranging from cousins, grandparents, uncles and sisters have served in the military, law enforcement, medicine and fire service.”
Sabata started as a cadet with the David City Volunteer Fire Department in 2000 before starting his formal education and earning a degree in fire science in 2008. He has been with the Columbus Fire Department since 2015, though also remains an active member of the volunteer department in David City.
His work ethic is at least partially inspired by his agricultural roots, as Sabata now operates his family’s farm.
“I continue to believe that people who were brought up in agriculture are unique in what they value,” he said. “The values learned in that way of life are hard to explain in words and can only truly be explained and passed on through the actions expected of them.”
While accepting his award, Sabata had the opportunity to talk about his love for agriculture, firefighting and the community. He heaped praise on the numerous donors who helped bring his vision to life of a full-size grain bin that will be used as a training site to replicate agriculture emergencies. It’s located on Bill Babka Drive.
“When gauging the interest in developing this facility I wasn’t necessarily surprised by the enthusiasm and encouragement I received to go forward with it, but I was taken back by the generosity of local businesses to make it happen,” Sabata said.
“Approximately 20 local businesses, most agriculturally based, donated $110,000. This excludes material donations. All in all, this project will end up costing nearly $140,000 all supported by donations. This exemplifies the Midwest small-town values we know and talk about.”
Columbus Fire Chief Ryan Gray and other members of the department were on hand Saturday to support Sabata. He said Sabata is a great and valued member of CFD.
“Ryan is a great example of what we look for in firefighters. He combined his love for the fire service and his passion for agriculture and recognized a need to provide our personnel with realistic training,” Gray said. “Not only did he recognize the problem, but he also set out to provide a solution and by soliciting and receiving over $110,000 for the project. He made it happen all day by donated funds. This eliminated the need to fund this project out of our annual budget and eased the burden on our taxpayers.”
Sabata reiterated though he appreciates the award from the American Legion, helping the public and working alongside his peers is what keeps him motivated.
“I enjoy the wide array of challenges faced, with very few days ever the same,” Sabata said. “This community and this fire department are unique in the area it serves with it being both urban and rural. I work with a great group of people that are highly motivated to keep learning and keeping me on my toes.”
The American Legion also recognized Columbus Police Officer Chico Lozos as “Law Officer of the Year” during the celebration. The City will publish a story about his honor in the near future.