What started off as a pinning ceremony to promote Thomas Hernandez to fire apparatus operator ended in a proposal.

With tears in her eyes, Elizabeth Garza was surprised with an engagement ring in front of family, friends and Alice fire department personnel.

“I had no idea he was going to do this,” Garza said.

The Alice Fire Department, led by Interim Fire Chief Patrick Thomas, held a promotion ceremony for Hernandez at the central fire station. Invocation was presented by Pastor Abdias Jimenez and welcoming by Mayor Jolene B. Vanover.

Interim City Manager Diana Lopez welcomed those in attendance and praised Thomas for his new leadership role.

“Thomas (Hernandez), as you step into your first leadership role, I hope you recognize the responsibility to mentor others...commit yourself to seeking out effective methods and progressive thinking toward change. And most importantly, recognize the value of ongoing education and training. I am so proud of you, and I wish nothing but success,” Lopez said. “...as you move forward as a department, with a new premise of positive change, respect those that came before you and strive to make the organization better for those who follow.”

Hernandez had several pins put on his lapel by his parents, fiance and niece during the pinning of collar brass ceremony. Fellow firefighters Capt. Pat Canales and Capt. Armando Tunchez gave the helmet presentation.

Fire Chief Thomas read his bio and administered the oath of office as Hernandez repeated it and presented his badge.

“This is a family and I really appreciate it,” Hernandez said in closing.