Harry Preston served his country in the United States Marine Corps (USMC) from years 2002 through 2006. Before he was honorable discharged he had completed two tours in Iraq. Harry has an associates degree in business management, and owns his own small business. He has a background in machining, and weapons ordnance.
In 2004 one of Harry’s close friends lost his sister, Firefighter Eva Schicke in the Tuolumne Fire. Eva was a member of the Columbia Helitack Crew and was the first female CAL Fire firefighter to die in the line of duty. Through Eva’s death he first learned about wildland firefighting, and witnessed the impact that her death had on her family and her fiancé. After the USMC some of Harry’s friends became firefighters with CAL Fire. His friends deploy to various wildfires throughout California. They often share pictures and stories of the fires along with those of their families. Harry knows the devastation of losing a loved one; he wants to help mitigate future losses so that wildland firefighters, and his friends can go home to their families.
Most significantly, Harry lives the loss of a loved one through his wife, Roxanne. The reminder that Roxanne lost her first husband, Granite Mountain Hotshot William “Billy” Warneke is present every day. The trauma of losing a spouse is lived through recounted stories and memories, anniversaries, the date of death, birthdays, and holidays. He sees grief through Roxanne’s eyes, and the eyes of Billy’s only child, Billie Grace. He knows that acceptance of a loved one’s death can be difficult, especially for a young child.
He decided to volunteer for the Wildland Firefighter Guardian Institute (WFGI) through helping his wife, Roxanne, WFGI’s co-founder and Chairman with various projects such as loading pallets of goods into the bed of his truck to take to a wildfire Incident Command Post. Through helping her he saw a very real need. There needs to be someone looking out for wildland firefighters whether it is for safety improvements, or assisting in carrying the weight of the stresses of the job. He witnessed that WFGI is that someone, a watchdog who will look out and speak out for wildland firefighters.
As an Iraq war veteran, he experienced and witnessed the travesties of war, and the long term emotional and mental imprints that it leaves behind. He knows all too well the depilating effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He has undergone Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) treatments for PTSD and work stress/anxiety. Through his first-hand experiences with EMDR, CBT and his battle with PTSD he knows that anyone who suffers with PTSD or work stress/anxiety should speak up and receive treatment. As research has shown first responders are susceptible to PTSD and work stress/anxiety. As employer paid treatment for firefighters is emerging he feels that it is important that the communities who are protected from wildfire by wildland firefighters must not forget their protectors, and to include them in all benefit circles of firefighting, especially when these valiant men and women reach out for help.
Harry brings with him business management knowledge and experience, but most importantly he brings empathy. In addition to serving as the Merchandise Officer he is closely following WFGI’s PTSD program, and offers Insight whenever possible.
Harry lives in Arizona with his wife Roxanne, her daughter Billie Grace, and their son Owen. He is an avid mountain biker, enjoys precision shooting and tinkering in his shop but most importantly spending time with his family.