first_imgCharlie and his crews helped save a lot of property and lives in the San Fernando Valley over the years, but you never forget the ones who got away. Have a great retirement, buddy. You deserve it. It was a bittersweet final day in court Wednesday for Lisa Nguyen, the sister of William Nguyen, who was run down in his wheelchair during the holidays last year on his way home after buying his baby son a Santa outfit for his first Christmas. Jesus Diaz Garcia, 38, was sentenced to seven years in state prison and ordered to pay $41,300 in restitution to Nguyen after pleading guilty to felony driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident. Nguyen, who underwent eight operations to put his broken body back together, is still in a rehabilitation center six months after the crash. “We were hoping for some emotion or expression of apology from him (Garcia), but there was none,” Lisa said. “It really upsets me, but now we can all focus on getting William better and back with his family.” Lisa wanted me to express one more time the Nguyen family’s gratitude for the hundreds of get-well cards and e-mails they received from Daily News readers. “They helped our family get through a dark, tragic time, and for that we will always be grateful,” she said. More thanks come this week from some veterans over at the Sepulveda VA who will be taking part in the upcoming Golden Age Games in Houston. As I wrote, these guys don’t have $1,200 lying around for airfare, hotel, and food expenses for the weeklong competition. The cost used to be defrayed by the VA because the games are literally a fountain of youth for aging veterans – keeping them healthy and working out in the gym all year to hopefully win a medal competing against veterans from every VA in the country. But a few years ago, the guys got word they would have to pay their own way from now on because the VA was tapped out, and didn’t have Golden Age Games money in its budget anymore. “That knocked out most of our team because they’re all living on tight budgets, hand to mouth,” said team captain Steve Palmer. “They don’t have $1,000 to go traveling.” Last year, Daily News readers came through and donated enough money to send 12 men to the games. This year, it looks like readers have come through again. “As of this week, it looks like we’re going to be able to send the whole team again,” Palmer said. “Please tell all the people and groups who donated that our team appreciates it, and we’re going to do our best again to bring home some medals.” And finally, this Saturday – Armed Forces Day – the 2007 Benefit for Our Bravest Street Festival will be held to support the efforts of Operation Gratitude, and all fire stations in the San Fernando Valley. The family event will be held from noon to 6 p.m. outside the Valley Inn Restaurant, 4557 Sherman Oaks Ave. in Sherman Oaks. There will be musical entertainment; live and silent auctions; local military, firefighters and police officers to meet; and food for sale prepared by local fire stations. For more information, log on to, or call Valerie Lawrence at (818) 222-6693. Dennis McCarthy’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. [email protected] (818) 713-3749160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Odds and ends from around the Valley: Halfway up the hill Charlie Casper knew it was time. “I was huffing and puffing, and the young guys were passing me by like I was standing still,” the veteran 71-year-old Los Angeles Fire Department captain said. “It’s a young man’s job. Fifty years was enough.” Before Charlie retired last month, a few hundred fellow firefighters and citizens living in the Porter Ranch and Reseda areas that he’s helped protect the past 30 years gave him a surprise retirement party. “Charlie was an incredible role model and inspiration to hundreds of young firefighters coming onto the department,” said LAFD Capt. Ernie Bobadilla. “Everyone just wanted a chance to say goodbye and thank you to a heck of a brave guy who put his life on the line countless times in 50 years to protect the people of this city,” he said. Charlie’s first big fire was the Bel-Air blaze in 1963 that destroyed about 450 homes, but the one that’s never left the back of his mind was the Stratford Hotel fire in 1973 in which 25 people died. “We pulled a dozen people out of windows, then we went back inside looking for three kids who were supposed to be trapped in one of the rooms,” he said. “We found them in the hallway. It was too late.” last_img

Firefighter’s 50 years of service saluted

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