Leibowitz: Valley Firefighter a Miracle on 2 Feet

Gilbert Aguirre (West Valley View File Photo)

If the measure of a human is how they bear up when life turns ugly, then Gilbert Aguirre is stronger than all of us, a testament to what can be survived and the power of faith.

His body has been attacked, his spirit shattered, his finances destroyed, his family visited by death. Yet whenever we meet, he hugs me and offers up his small, shy smile.

Husband, father, firefighter, son of God, cancer survivor, plaintiff. Aguirre is all those things. He is also surely the strongest man walking.

The first tragedy was a vicious killer named chronic myeloid leukemia. This was May 2015. Gilbert was 35, Tiffanie’s husband, the father of three boys. He’d been a Goodyear firefighter since 2007. The disease, a plague on firefighters everywhere, took him to his knees.

Gilbert started chemo and filed a worker’s comp claim. Nausea and vomiting were constant. The kids eyeballed him fearfully — they kept thinking he was about to die. Aguirre summoned his resolve.

“They’re looking at how I was going to handle adversity, how I was going to respond,” he says. “I had to give them a good example and just show them to rise up. No matter how many times you get knocked down, you still have to get back up and keep fighting.”

The second tragedy came courtesy of Copper Point Insurance Company, which denied Aguirre’s insurance claim — and has kept denying it through court hearings for eight years.

So we’re clear, my day job in PR means that I represent the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona. That makes Gilbert not merely my friend, but by extension my client.

The truth? I’d stand beside him against the insurance thugs for free. Actually, I’d pay for the privilege.

At stake for the Aguirre family is their financial well-being. They’ve already declared bankruptcy, burdened by the unforeseen costs of cancer. His leukemia in remission,

Gilbert is back on the job, but two decades running 911 calls have broken his body. He’d love to take a medical retirement, but he can’t afford it. He’s uninsurable, and the cancer drugs he takes cost $15,000 each month.

So he prays his next hearing — April 11 before the Arizona Court of Appeals — will finally force Copper Point to tap into the $1.6 billion surplus detailed in their annual report and pay his claim.

Aguirre and hundreds of firefighters made that point through bullhorns outside Copper Point headquarters.

David Leibowitz, Author

Gilbert and Tiffanie came with the two of the boys, but their oldest son, 17-year-old Gabryan, the high school homecoming king, the jokester, the football player, could only attend in spirit. Gabe was killed Feb. 17 in a rollover crash in Goodyear.

“More so now than ever with everything that we’ve been through and losing my son, we’ve got to keep it together somehow as a family,” Aguirre says.

Where does he find the strength? He prays. Constantly, daily, hourly. Does he question his God, ask why me, why Gabe, why us? Never, he explains.

“I know that He’s not the one that causes every bad thing that happens,” Aguirre says. “If I question Him, then it’s making me question my faith, and I’ll never do that. Because ultimately what I want is to be able to see my son again. And so I have to hold on strong to my faith. I’ll never question God or why things happen.”

That faith makes Gilbert Aguirre a miracle on two feet. Long may he stand.

Written by David Leibowitz for the West Valley View ~ April 13, 2023

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