Lake Sidney Lanier, GA – A life of dedication, a life of service. Operations section and lead water safety park ranger Stephen Cahn was recently awarded the South Atlantic Division’s Outstanding Individual Water Safety award. The Georgia native wasn’t always a water safety park ranger. This makes the third career he’s chosen to better keep the local community safe and sound over 30+ years. Born in St. Charles, Illinois, Cahn moved to Georgia at nine. After graduating from Parkview High school in Lilburn, GA, in 1985, Cahn immediately enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.
“I come from a military family on both my parent sides, so I knew I would be joining the service. I even wanted to be a firefighter as a kid watching the tv show [Emergency] with Squad 51,” said Cahn laughingly.
During his 20-year career, spent on both active duty and in the reserves, Stephen served as an Aviation Ordnance technician during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, taking part in an incredible 281 sorties. Cahn spent the last five years with the Marines as the events coordinator for the Marine Corps Reserves’ Toys for Tots program, retiring as a Gunnery Sergeant.
While most of us would consider being a Marine a full-time endeavor by itself, Stephen decided early on he would also like to serve his local community more directly. In 1987, Cahn was hired as a firefighter for the Gwinnett County Fire Services. During his 30-year career with the department, Stephen performed multiple roles as a firefighter, paramedic, training officer, Fire Lieutenant, and Fire Captain.
Additionally, he volunteered to serve on the department’s Honor Guard, Critical Incident Stress Management team, and the Technical Rescue team.
“The day-to-day routine is very similar across all three professions. Especially the team aspect. There’s a great sense of camaraderie,” said Stephen. “I’m going to do the job 110%, every time. Hopefully, that saves a life.”
Prior to retiring from the fire service, Cahn joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as an intermittent ranger. He immediately became a full-time ranger in 2018 after retiring from the fire department. As the lead water safety ranger, Cahn’s duties are based in water safety education, community outreach and down-river safety.
“Reaching out and educating the children is one of the most important things we can do. If we can teach them young, hopefully, they will incorporate it into their adult life,” said Cahn. “Unfortunately, a lot of the accidents and tragedies we see are adults that just don’t have the safety measures engrained as their routine.” Stephen has also been part of measures taken to improve the safety of Lake Lanier, such as improved land navigation, GPS water location, marine buoy lighting, and the ‘Please Wear It’ life jacket sign campaign.
His awards and decorations span from military service commendation and combat action medals to Fire Distinguished Service and Outstanding Volunteer medals, and everything in between, making it even more clear that his dedication to serving his community and the country over the past 30 years has been nothing short of spectacular.