Roll of Honor

Will Paulsen Hawkins

Will Paulsen Hawkins

  • Firefighter
  • Bureau of Land Management - Winnemucca District
  • Nevada
  • Age: 22
  • Year of Death: 2016

Will was born and grew up in Reno, NV with his parents Bob and MaryJo and his brother Seth. He loved sports, especially football, and was an avid weight lifter. Will had so many friends; he was charming, witty, friendly and kind to outsiders.

When Will was about 13, his dad took him and his brother to the hardware store and let them pick out whatever paint they wanted for their bedrooms. Will picked red. RED red. Velvet Cake, high gloss racing red. It was an unfortunate interior design choice, but completely in keeping with his personality. He liked to keep things in the red zone as much as possible. He always went all out, pushed every boundary, took every chance. He was fearless and adventurous and never afraid to go out on a limb – he always believed the limb would support him.

He was especially reckless in his early teens, but a serious ankle injury at 15 taught him that we wasn’t invincible and he started to think a little more about his physical risk taking. He sold his motorcycle after an accident in which he miraculously escaped injury because he was getting too crazy on it and was afraid he would seriously hurt himself and wouldn’t be able to work. He wanted to take chances, he wanted to see what he could do, how far he could push himself physically. He wanted the adrenaline rush but he knew he wasn’t invincible, and he wanted to make sure he didn’t mess things up for himself. He was becoming a calculated risk taker.

Will’s teenage years were a challenge for his parents. He just wanted to have fun, but he wanted it a lot and was willing to take some risks for it. Fortunately, when he got out of high school he started taking responsibility for himself and thinking about his future. He worked really hard to get his first seasonal firefighting job, and that first season made all the difference. He was hooked. He had found his path. In November of 2015, after three summers of seasonal firefighting, Will was hired on as a permanent employee of the Winnemucca, NV BLM Fire Department.

Firefighting made him proud of what he did and who he was. At 22, Will had shown his parents that their decades of hard work had not been in vain, and he had grown up to be a person any parent would be proud to call theirs.