Memphis firefighter quits and moves to Iraq over pension problems

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

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.


    • Get Informed

      Be a city employee here first before you judge. Walk a mile in his shoes. He is probably making a very good move for himself. I think most first responders are strongly considering getting out of this place. A city should not make war with it’s fire and police departments, but this city does that every single year. I wonder what would happen if the city went a year or even 2 or 3 not taking things from police and firemen who have not had a raise in 6 years. Did you know since Luttrell has been mayor the county employees have had a 2% and a 3% raise in that time and their taxes were reduced 3%. Luttrell even had to absorb a rather dysfunctional and expensive school system. Best of luck overseas. I want you to know that I appreciate your efforts and I am sorry you got such a raw deal here. Sometimes we get in a rut and forget there is a whole other world out there that might suprise you how nice things can be when you take time to look around.

      • Don

        Mayor Luttrell had a hard row to hoe when he became Shelby County mayor.
        Wharton had almost bankrupted the county. I don’t hear anything about the county have a Blue Flu because the employees are happy and have respect for their mayor.
        AC Wharton has no respect, and can you blame the employees, I don’t.
        The state should investigate what is going on at Memphis City Hall.
        I left Memphis several years ago so I don’t really have a dog in this hunt. And I am happy. I would like to see the citizens take some action.

  • D.Slayer

    Probably better living conditions in Iraq and no Whoreton, Chicken Little or the the silly council!!!!!!!

  • Navy Vet

    We have also thought about going over there. They pay is really high and the chance you will get killed is lower than in Memphis. I have friends that have been in Iraq for 12 years and they have so much money saved up that when they come home, they will never have to work.

    • NCOWife2

      That’s true. When my husband retired and we moved back here a year and a half ago, my husband began seriously thinking about going back over there as a contractor. Their pay is in the high 6 figures and you’re right…if they stay a few years, they will never have to work again. We have dozens of friends that make in excess of 200K-300K per year and the likelihood they will see violence IS about the same as in Memphis. It depends on where they are located. My husband has been there 3 times for 1.5 year intervals. Some people we know have been there for nearly a decade and have no intentions of coming back any time soon.

  • Josh

    This is what’s going to be a regular thing . Every paramedic I know has put in for another city. Good luck hope no one or their family needs a ambulance

  • Keith staples

    Here we are , all these greedy people have joined hands and are patting themselves on the back. God will show himself starting in good ole Memphis Tn. AC and George get your things together you are about to be judged for your sins.

  • Althea Davenport

    Don’t blame the ones who are leaving. Memphis has turned into the worst city ever. I have nephews, cousins, n uncles who have risked their lives for the slum of the city. Give them back their pensions, give back raises, and all you have taken away. Just remember, all of you, firemen SAVE life’s. YOU may need them one day and if things keep going the way they are, the city will be left with no employees! This goes for all the police too. All the big wigs better wake up.

  • Steph

    Please fix the video. Thing kept jumping around. Even paused, waited for entire thing to load, and then replayed. But still jumped…… Truly sad to see any of Memphis ppl go but it’s the cities fault. I would have done the same thing if my benefits were cut so drastically.

  • Jobby

    He wanted to do this anyways and is simply using this and saying that as either an excuse or just to prove a point or both! No one does this over benefits. He could have gone to Germantown or Collierviller or some other place near by and still be close tho home. No one does this over benefits so that’s why I say he wanted to anyways. Couldn’t tell me anything else.

    • Mike

      Rather than question HIS integrity we should question AC Wharton and George little’s. how about this for example. Over 500 cops and firemen have quit in the past two years alone and have not been replaced. 50k salary plus 20k personnel costs equals 70k per year per man. Multiplied by 500 equals 35 million dollars in personnel savings PER YEAR. Where is that money? Where is the money?

    • Get Informed

      obviously you don’t understand what they did to the benefits. They destroyed the retirement. Could you live on 800 bucks a month and no social security? Some people do live on that, but he is a highly trained professional. A nurse should make more than a data entry clerk. He will do far better elsewhere. A policeman and a fireman position are professional positions. The pay is not good but the benefits make that up to some degree. But when you take the benefits why not go to the private sector and not risk getting killed everyday and get better pay and not see stuff that will haunt you for life. He is smart enough that he doesn’t have to. They took the careers of fire and policmen and made it just a job. Most people take city jobs for benefits because the pay and likelyhood of getting promoted is far greater with the private sector. Attaining high paying jobs is far more likely in the private sector. This town treats it’s emergency responders like garbage and too much of the public is fine with the city breaking contracts and bankrupting solid 30 year employees. That is why my children will not grow up here.

  • Gtown sage

    He will still be working for the government, taxpayer funded. The federal government is not just broke, it is in massive debt. Unlike Memphis, it can still keep writing checks.

  • canadianwhiskeygirl

    Greg Hayes, good luck to u, young man. I think u made a real smart move! Just stay safe and keep in touch with us. The rest of the MFD, MPD and city workers, hang in there, stand your ground, dont back down!…..kinda miss u guys zinging up and down N. Graham, full code all hours but….

  • canadianwhiskeygirl

    What I would love to read is the IRS going in unannounced, seize every single book and do a deep down investigation on all of them.

    • PK

      Can’t be much worse! I suspect a lot of will be sneaking accross the border into mexico before long; seeing as how it is almost empty….

  • Joe

    let them leave…….no increase in 4 years? and now you complain because its gonna cost you another 75 or 100 bucks a month?

    crybabies….all of you


    “I feel better about going to a war zone then staying here in Memphis with the city council and Mayor how they are.”

    And that my friends, sums up the state of affairs in the bluff city. Heck, he probably has better odds staying alive in Iraq then driving back and forth to work in Memphis.

  • eagleeye

    A lot of companies that furnish Police or Police trainers, pay in the 100K TO 200K for a 12 month deployment in other countries with no TAXES if you stay 12 months

Comments are closed.