This Navy SEAL Vet Was Denied by the FDNY Because of His Age
The decorated war hero is taking the matter to federal court.
Shaun Donovan, 37, has always wanted to serve his country. He was born in Arizona on September 11, 1981, but his parents grew up in Staten Island, New York. Donovan became a Navy SEAL shortly after the 9/11 attacks, serving four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and earning medals of valor for his service. But when he wanted to continue a career in civil service by joining the FDNY as a firefighter, he was denied—all because of a technicality.
"When 9/11 happened, I knew I had to do something about it," Donovan told the New York Post. "I believe in the city, I believe in its values and its people. I want to do my part to keep it safe."
With his military career ending in 2020, the war veteran decided he wanted to join the FDNY. He was unable to attend the exam while assigned to the Naval Special Warfare Basic Training Command. So Donovan asked New York's Department of Administrative Services for permission to take a make-up test. He included his date of birth in the request and was approved. Donovan then used military leave and his own money to fly to New York for the make-up exam, paying $1,331 for airfare alone.
He passed the physical test and scored within the top 1 percent of 43,900 candidates on the written exam.
But, in spite of his clearly impressive skills, the FDNY told Donovan that he was past the age limit to join New York City's illustrious team of firefighters. It turns out, an applicant can't be more than 29 when he or she begins applying, though those who serve in the military are allotted an extra six years. This meant that, when Donovan submitted his application, he was six months and 25 days over the current limit.
"It was a letdown," he told the New York Post. "I was allowed to apply and take the test. At no point was I made aware I was outside any age limit."
Donovan has gained a substantial support group on social media from those who believe that his resume provides justifiable cause for him to be considered an exception to the age limit.
Some are calling on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to stand with Donovan.
Best Life spoke to an anonymous FDNY firefighter who was disappointed by the situation, calling Donovan "a military hero risking his life to protect the very people denying him a job. "
"He is the kind of guy we want on our team," the firefighter continued. "We don't care about gender, race, sexual preference. What we care about is when the tones go off and it's time to go to work and save lives and property, we want the ones who prepared for their job, who studied, who trained, and who can physically do the job—no matter what the circumstances that surround them in that moment are. … Shaun Donovan seems like a guy who would respect that and be prepared for any call for help that may come."
Donovan appealed his case to New York Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro and was rejected. He is currently appealing to the city Civil Service Commission, and is planning to file a lawsuit if his appeal is denied, according to the New York Post.
Federal judges have overruled FDNY decisions in the past, such as in July 2009, when U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled that the fire department's written exams "unfairly excluded hundreds of qualified people of color from the opportunity to serve as New York City firefighters" in response to a lawsuit brought forth by African-American and Hispanic applicants.
James Long, a spokesperson for the FDNY, told Best Life that they would adhere to any decision made by the federal court.
"The age requirement is per state civil service law and not subject to interpretation," Long noted, adding that this means that Nigro "does not have the authorization to waive the requirement."
However, in reference to the aforementioned 2009 case, Long also added, "Should a Court rule similarly on behalf of Mr. Donovan, we would abide by such ruling."
Best Life reached out to Donovan's attorney for further information and was told he's "not doing further interviews at this time." And for more war heroes you may not have known about, check out these 30 Celebrities Who Served in the Military.
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