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Speaker of the House Mike Johnson meets with Louisiana firefighters Monday

Shreveport Times: Makenzie Boucher

On a gloomy Monday morning, Shreveport firefighters were dressed in their best in anticipation to welcome the United States Speaker of the House.

Shreveport native Rep. Mike Johnson paid northwest Louisiana a visit April 8. During his visit, he recognized the men and women of the Shreveport Fire Department with a Challenge Coin ceremony.

"I am really honored to hand these out to the group that I feel like I came from," Johnson said.

Johnson's father, Patrick, was a firefighter for the department before he was severely injured in an industrial explosion.

"I've always felt like I missed my calling in some way," Johnson said. "I should be wearing that uniform standing there with you. This is really meaningful to me. I've given out Challenge Coins to law enforcement, first responders but never to my home team."

Shreveport Fire Chief Clarence Reese said, "It's a one in a lifetime deal, especially being here in Shreveport, Louisiana."

Following the Challenge Coin ceremony, Johnson held a roundtable discussion with local law enforcement and public safety officials.

"It's kind of a rare opportunity to be able to sit with all the chiefs around the table, so I don't take it for granted," Johnson said.

The discussion was closed to the media, but Reese said that some of his top discussion points during the roundtable would be in regard to the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant. This grant is used for recruitment and retention as well as salary and benefits for new full-time firefighters.

"There was a cut of about 10% to the budget," Reese said. "We want to talk to him about those things and how important it is to have those grants available to our firefighters and our fire departments."
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