GRAND FORKS — Captain Logan Schonert received one of the Veteran's of Foreign Wars' most prestigious awards Monday, April 5, during a ceremony outside the Grand Forks Fire Department.
Schonert received the North Dakota VFW Firefighter of the Year award.
"(It's) surreal, I guess. I wasn't looking for awards," he said. "I was trying to keep the whole thing quiet."
Last year, he answered a call. Not a 911 call, but a call from someone he looked up to.
"I just wanted to help him out. It's something I could do that wouldn't have a big impact me and would make his life a whole lot better," said Schonert, referring to former Grand Forks Battalion Fire Chief Rick Aamot.
"In the fire department, you have to cover each other's back, and Logan covered mine," Aamot said.
The two worked together for nearly a decade until Aamot retired in 2019. His 30-year career was cut a couple months short. Just before his planned retirement, he was diagnosed with a very rare protein disease.
"Before I knew it, it had wiped out my kidneys and was going after my heart," Aamot said.
It required him to undergo dialysis several hours a day, three days a week. He would need a new kidney to save his life. He reached out to firefighters in the tri-state region.
It was someone who admired Aamot's leadership who responded first.
"He was someone with experience that I respected as a captain and looked up to," Schonert said.
Aamot, who now resides in Arizona half the year, remembers getting that call from Schonert, who is nearly 20 years younger than him with a young family.
"It was unreal. I worked daily with this guy, and he offered up his kidney to me. I just didn't expect it from the department or someone I worked with," Aamot said.
"I thought about it for a while and researched what the effects would be to me; it didn't seem like it would impact my life that much," Schonert said.
The surgery was a success. Both men experienced no side effects, and Schonert is back at the fire department.
"Both his (Aamot's) boys still work at the fire department, and one of them is actually on my crew right now, so our family is pretty close now," Schonert said.
Aamot is enjoying retirement down south.
"We (go) hiking up in the mountains, we try and walk everyday for an hour-hour and a half, and we play a lot of pickleball," he said.
Schonert will find out in about two weeks if he will receive the national VFW Firefighter of the Year award.