Salute Our Heroes: Fighting fires from Topeka to Kuwait

Salute Our Heroes: Nick Tafanelli
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 10:17 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -Nick Tafanelli not only wanted to serve as a firefighter for the Topeka Fire Department.

He wanted to take his determination overseas, even if it meant dropping some weight.

“Once I first went to the recruiter and they said I had to lose this much weight and they kind of had this look on them like “We have seen this story before, he won’t be back” but it ignited something in me,” said Tafanelli.

From January to November of 2017, Tafanelli lost the required 90 pounds and found himself enlisted as a firefighter in the Air National Guard.

The hard worked paid off, when he was recognized as one of the United Service Organizations Service Members of the Year.

“A couple of volunteer things here and there and then on the military side, just participating and raising your hand to go do different things they have asked over the past couple of years, I’ve had some opportunities to do things not a lot of people in the military get to do,” he said.

The hard work on both sides of the globe was inspired by his father - former Kansas Adjutant General Lee Tafanelli.

“Watching him and hearing stories from when he deployed and hearing people talk about how eager he was, and how he is always taking care of people. That’s something that I really latched onto and want to continue throughout my career in the military.”

Tafanelli says skills he learned have helped him help others in Kuwait

“Everything that I bring in is stuff that I learned from the guys I worked with at Topeka or going to different training across the state and picking up things here and there. I brought back to the base and the guys say “This is making our life easier.”