MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A former Memphis firefighter said he would rather work in a war zone than the Bluff City, so that's exactly what he's going to do.
Greg Hayes said the city pension problems and hikes to health premiums are pushing him overseas to Iraq.
Hayes flew out of the Memphis International Airport Friday, bound for Iraq where he will work as a paramedic for the Department of State.
It's a drastic decision, one he's been considering since December. But he said the city council's vote in June sealed his decision.
"It's kind of surreal right now, but it's really alleviating," Hayes told WREG at the airport.
It's not the reaction you would expect from someone heading into a war zone.
Hayes is hanging up his Memphis fire helmet and moving to Iraq to be a paramedic.
"Have I lost my mind? I lost my mind when the city started changing everything," he said. "That's when I lost my mind!"
Hayes said he never even consider going to the Middle East until things started to go south with the city. When the city council decided to hike health-care premiums and put his pension at risk, he said it was the final straw.
"I feel better about going to a war zone then staying here in Memphis with the city council and Mayor how they are."
He is not the only veteran firefighter leaving Memphis.
Joe Norman with the Memphis Fire Fighters Association said, "They're leaving by droves. We've got three leaving this week."
While leaving family and friends behind is hard, Hayes hope this dramatic decision will make an impact on city officials and help lead to changes for his Memphis brothers and sisters in red.
"If I come back, I hope to see you change. I really do."
Hayes plans on staying in Iraq for at least a couple of years.