08/06/2013 06:41 pm ET Updated Aug 08, 2013

Rick Vega, Chicago Fire Lieutenant, Honors Late Chicago Firefighter, Eddie Groya, Who Rescued Him As A Boy

Firefighters don't always get funerals with honors.

But on Wednesday, Chicago Fire Lieutenant Rick Vega will stand honor guard in full uniform during the wake of retired Chicago firefighter Eddie Groya.

In 1963, when Vega was 5 years old, Groya rescued him and his grandfather from their blazing apartment building. Groya was a member of a unit called Truck 44.

Today, Vega works for a unit with the same number.

“It means everything to me," he told WGN 9 News in November 2012. "Really you could cut me and I’d bleed Truck 44.”

Last year, the two met for the first time since the rescue. But even before the reunion, Vega had been inspired by Groya.

In 2007, he recounted to the Chicago Tribune just how in awe of his rescuer he was.

"These guys had no masks. They've got an unbelievable fire, they were throwing these wooden ladders, not these aluminum ladders we have now," Vega remembered. "You know how these guys did it? It's incredible. And how we got out was even more incredible, without masks, because we should not have made it."

On Monday, Groya died from complications from esophageal cancer at the age of 86.

Vega told the Chicago Sun-Times that he will dress in full uniform to honor the man who saved him and inspired him to be a firefighter.

“That’s the least I can do," he told the newspaper. "Here’s a man that literally saved my life, and here’s the end of his life, and I’m going to stand honor guard for him. I would be honored and proud to do that.”



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