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BROWNSVILLE — She’s always been the sweet one, the strong one, the brave one who faced vicious fires with her skill and determination while tending the wounded with a gentle hand.
Now, Cindy Puente needs help through the torturous journey of cancer to new health. She was diagnosed only about two weeks ago, and her medical bills have already begun to climb into the upper register of intimidation. Her fellow firefighters at the Brownsville Fire Department have set up a GoFundMe page on her behalf.
“Our sister, Cindy Puente, was recently diagnosed with cancer in her brain, breasts, and lungs,” said fellow firefighter Joe Huerta on the GoFundMe page.
“Cindy recently retired from the Brownsville Fire Department, where she served her community for more than 22 years,” Huerta said. “She is a third-generation firefighter and was only the second female in the 150-year-history of the department.”
Cindy has certainly been a ground breaker: She was the first woman at the Brownsville Fire Department to hold the rank of driver/engineer, as well as the first female to act in the capacity of the officer of a fire company.
But more than that, her powerful presence and endearing manner have inspired many, and now so many who have known her are deeply troubled by her predicament.
“For us, cancer is a really big issue among firefighters,” Huerta said recently. “It’s one of the leading causes of death of firefighters, so we deal with this all the time. It’s not something that we’re used to, but in Cindy’s case I think it hit a little bit different for all of us because she is just a sweet person.”
“During her entire 23-year career,” Huerta said, “she was just really nice, warm and compassionate about everybody who came through the station.”
She has also been a mentor to younger firefighters coming into the department. Just ask Assistant Fire Chief Joey Garcia, who has worked for the Brownsville department for 12 years.
“I’ve known her since I started as a young kid coming in,” Garcia said. “She’s just the sweetest person you could ever meet, a kind-hearted soul. She just made everybody feel welcome when you joined the fire department.”
Being a groundbreaker for women entering the firefighting profession, these new recruits found in her a source of strength.
“She was real supportive of the younger female fighters who were just starting out,” Huerta said.
Then, pausing for a moment, he clarified by saying, “Pretty much anybody. If you were there at the station and you were kind of a regular, she would greet you in the morning with a hug, not just a handshake. We all liked Cindy. She was just a great personality around the station and so, for something so awful to happen to somebody so nice, it just really struck a nerve.”
So strongly has the news struck the nerve of so many that already the GoFundMe page has raised more than $10,000.
Anyone wishing to help can pull up the GoFundMe website and search “Medical Expenses for Cindy Puente.”
The first thing viewers will see is the picture of a strong firefighter with a captivating smile.