As always, I was with Zach Green and my MN8 Fox Fire family. It was a GREAT show!
I always get asked why I travel so much. Why I enjoy going to these shows and exactly what is “it” that keeps me going back. The answer to that is simple …. it’s THE PEOPLE!
We always meet so many GREAT Brothers and Sisters at these events. I guess we call it “networking” now but the opportunity to meet, talk with and share information (and the brotherhood) with these folks is invaluable. I learn something from every trip we take but more so, I make life long friends and get to share and spread the Brotherhood.
Before I even left, I posted on Face Book that I was heading North.
Within minutes, I was getting messages with invitations to stop by this station or that one. To meet this Brother or that for lunch etc. It always amazes me and is very humbling that these Brothers and Sisters openly invite me in.
I did make a stop on this trip beyond my regulars. On the way up I-81 I dropped in on the Riverheads VFD.
Brother Chris Botkin invited me out and gave me a great tour of their station and rigs. I could see the PRIDE these Brothers have for the job by the way they kept the house and their rigs. Thanks to Chris for inviting me out. I wish I had longer to stay by the short rest was needed and very welcomed.
As usual, we were very busy in the booth…. we always are and for several reasons.
“The most interesting man in the world” was there for one reason and that guy from the Dos Equis beer commercials made an appearance as well.
LOL … all kidding aside, we are always busy because the product is that good. For us it’s all about firefighter safety. About increasing your visibility, aiding in your accountability and decreasing your chances of becoming disoriented.
If you’ve never seen the product in person, you need to. We can’t effectively explain what it is and how it works. Contact us through our web site or via Face book to find a dealer near you.
As hard as we work in the booth … we play and rest with just as much vigor afterwards.
There are always a group of old friends and “regular” show attendees / vendors that we are able to catch up with at each show. This event was no different.
Clayton Murphy from Crosstitched was there. If you’ve never seen Clayton’s work, that the time to hit the link I provided. Clayton is a class act and it’s evident in his work. Even the boxes he ships in will make an impression on you … trust me.
He’s a plethora of knowledge and always a BLAST to hang out with. It was good to be able to spend some time with him once again.
I should also mention Bryan Sypniewski and Dolores Bochenek. They are both part of our “Boots on the Street” team who helped work the booth this weekend and they did an AWESOME job!
Like I said, beyond our team, family and long time friends, it’s always good to meet new Brothers and Sisters for the first time. Some many people came up to speak to me this weekend that I could never mention them all.
Everyone offers words of encouragement, condolences and appreciation. Again I’ll say it humbling… VERY humbling. Thanks to each of you for taking the time to talk to me.
I remember you all and several stand out. One of those stand outs was Dave Hitt from Vestal New York. We have been talking to Dave on Face Book for a while now and we were all very excited to meet him in person.
Dave even wrote a blog post about the expo and our visit. Check it out here … Through the Smoke
Special Thanks to Dave for the “shout out” in his post but more importantly for taking the time to drop by the booth and say hello.
Thanks as well (and again) to everyone who took the time to drop by or hang around and chat. If you took a photo of us, please remember to “tag” me in them if you post to Face Book.
I hated to leave but Sunday was Fathers Day and I made it back just in time.
I got to spend a little time with the Buckaroo before heading out to spend a little with Pop.
I have to admit that even as tired as I was, it was very relaxing spending time with dad and the boys of Nothin Fancy .
The boys were up in nearby Floyd County Va playing a few bluegrass tunes for the folks. If you’re a Bluegrass fan and have never heard of Nothin Fancy be sure to use these links and check them out… you’re gonna LOVE em!
It was an outside venue and VERY relaxing. It’s always good to be out with friends and family and it tied up my weekend very nicely.
Besides the great music, there is a very nice restaurant nearby and all sorts of other activities to get into.
Apparently, they even had a face painting booth. Looks like my wife found out where it was. Mustache envy knows no boundaries …. just look at her face … GUILTY! LOL
I hope you all enjoyed your Fathers Day as much as I did mine. If this rain ever quits, I’ll be back in the hay field until about Christmas. Meanwhile, I’ll try to get back to ya as soon as possible. Until I do … stay SAFE and in House!
It’s a VERY fancy place and sure to be a great show! You should have seen the look on their faces when I walked into the hotel with my cowboy hat and boots last night. When I asked “How yall doin” you could have heard a pin drop ….. LMAO (they’re gonna LOVE me here!).
We will be set up in booth #2125 so if you’re at the show, be sure to stop by for a personal demo of the MN8 FoxFire product line.
If you’re already using FoxFire, stop by anyway to tell us how it’s working for ya or just to say hello.
I’m not sure of our full schedule yet but I do know that tonight, I will be at the Capitol Region F.O.O.L.S meet-up. If you want to attend, you can find more details HERE . These are a GREAT bunch of Brothers and Sisters and actually, Rhett and I will be back up here in September to speak at one of their events …. I can’t wait!
I’m not sure who all was on duty yesterday or who was first in but I do know that the Officers and members of B-shift are all “dialed in” and good at what we do. Most likely, it would have been Engine #2 (Captain Trussler), Engine #3 (Captain Kesterson) or Engine #13 (Captain Dillon) first in. Either way, it looks like the boys did a great job of handling the incident. STRONG WORK Brothers….. STRONG WORK.
So, It’s time for me to iron my Bunker Kilt and get ready for today’s events. Rhett stayed behind this trip as he’s at the Virginia Fire Officer’s Academy in Richmond ( “getting his learn on” …LOL). He says it’s a GREAT class and that he’s taking a lot away from it. I can’t wait til he gets a post up about it over on FireCritic…. be sure to keep an eye out for it.
So there ya have it. Short and sweet for now. I’ll try to get ya more tonight … depending on how late those F.O.O.L.S keep me out.
It must be promotion season because they’re popping up everywhere. There are several that I’m aware of with more pending. There are a couple I’ll share with ya along with a retirement.
Promotions can go either way. Sometimes they work out well … other times not so much. I guess it all depends on the position, the process and the person. Sadly, a lot of times; we see people promoted to a position for the wrong reasons and that most always sets the stage for failure.
Whether or not a newly promoted member has (or should have) ”come through the ranks” has always been a highly debated topic in the firehouse (especially when the promotion is to an Officer or Chief Officer position). Personally, I give a lot of merit to those who have.
It just seems simple to me. Coming through the ranks allows you to learn and become proficient at each level you’ll soon be expected to supervise or manage. I think it would be difficult for a Chief Officer to set and enforce policy and procedures for firefighters if they’ve never been one themselves. If they’ve never worked as a firefighter, as a Driver / Operator, a Lieutenant, Captain or Battalion Chief. If they’ve never worked in a firehouse, pulled 24 hour shifts, missed Christmas, ball games etc. How could they understand those they intend to lead? I could (and may) be wrong here. I once had a Chief of Department tell me that the pilot of a 747 Jetliner never had to load the luggage to become a good pilot. His point was true I guess but I’d argue that had that pilot loaded luggage at some point, then he would understand that how the luggage is loaded has a direct bearing on weight distribution and how the plane will or will not handle / fly. He would also better understand what the people working with and around him has to deal with on a daily basis. In my opinion, it would have made him a better pilot.
Anyway, the promotions I’m gonna tell ya about did move through the ranks and I’m excited to see how they handle their new positions. I know they have the experience and skills. I’m sure they’ll do well.
I was very excited to learn that Mark Akins made Battalion Chief last week. It’s been 34 years in the making!
John’s Creek is a fairly new Department having been established in 2008.
They have 3 stations staffed with approximately 78 firefighters. Learn more about the Johns Creek fire stations HERE .
Johns Creek has some GREAT members and is sure to grow. I can say that because I’ve had the honor of meeting a few of them, including their Chief Jeff Hogan.
Rhett and I were in Atlanta back in August 2011 to attend Fire rescue International.
It was a great trip that included a 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.
That’s where we first met Mark (then a Captain) and his A-Shift crew from Station #63.
Mark was a loyal fan and follower or both Ironfiremen and FireCritic.com. He read that we were planning the trip and invited us out to meet and share a meal with him and his crew. To Rhett and me, just the invite screams PRIDE.
Mark had so much Pride in his Company and Department that he wanted to share it with us. It was a great visit and it was easy to see from the moment we walked in the door that these brothers “got it”.
Congratulations to the Johns Creek Fire Department and all it’s members. You just got yourself a great Battalion Chief. Congratulations as well to Chief Akins!!! All the hard work and effort has paid off Brother. Sometimes, the “good guys” do finish first. Well EARNED and DESERVED Brother …. keep up the strong work and look after the boys down there.
Ok, so the next promotion is in a Department closer to home for me and involves another member who has worked through the ranks.
The Roanoke Fire / EMS Department (Va) announced last week that Battalion Chief Jeff Beckner will be promoted to the position of Deputy Chief of Operations.
Roanoke Fire/EMS is located in beautiful Southwestern Virginia. They cover approx. 43 square miles protected by 11 stations and 200+ members. They hold an ISO rating of 2.
I know Chief Beckner personally as well. I’ve known him for years actually. I know he worked through the ranks and has been well respected by the members of the Roanoke Fire Department throughout his career. Chief Beckner has close to 30 years on the job having served most recently as an Operations Battalion Chief on the South Battalion.
Jeff (Chief Beckner) has always been a strong leader. As a Captain, he always built strong companies. He carried that ability / trait with him to the level of BC and built strong Battalions as well. Hopefully, he will continue the trend as Deputy Chief and build an even stronger Department. I’m sure he will and look forward to seeing the progress he makes.
CONGRATULATIONS to Chief Jeff Beckner on his promotion to Deputy Chief of Operations!
I happen to know a little of the inside story on the Roanoke promotions. Because of Chief Beckners bump to Deputy, several more promotions are likely to follow. There seems to be at least 2 Battalion positions open, 4-5 Captains and then some 1st. Lt and Lieutenant positions open to fill as well. Why all the promotions ??? Retirement.
Battalion Chief Manual retired from the Training Division and Deputy Chief Ralph Tartaglia is retiring as Deputy Chief of Operations after 37 years of service.
Yea … 37 years!
Chief Tartaglia also worked his way through the ranks and has served as the Deputy of Operations for 2 Chiefs now.
Like Chiefs Akins and Beckner, I know Chief Tartaglia well. He’s often said that if he ever needed a letter of recommendation written that I would be the first person he came to. He said that because he has read a lot of letters that I’ve written throughout my career. That’s both a good and bad thing…. LOL.
A local news station did a small piece on Chief Tartaglia’s retirement … watch it below ….
For those wondering, Rhett (The Fire Critic) and I both tested from promotion within our Department. Rhett tested for 1st Lt and Captain while I tested again for Battalion. Rhett is ranked somewhere in the middle of his lists and I haven’t received my results as of yet.
In my opinion, our process is somewhat flawed but I’ll post more on that in the future. Until then, CONGRATULATIONS to Chief Akins and Beckner on their promotions. Im back on duty tomorrow and then headed to New York for a Chief’c Convention on Wednesday. I’ll get back to ya as soon as possible but until I do …
Today, June 6, 2013 marks the 69th Anniversary of the Allied Invasion of Normandy.
156,000 troops from The United States, The United Kingdom, Canada, free France and Norway made up the Allied forces.
The small town of Bedford, Va provided some 30 soldiers (Company A) to the 29th Infantry Division when the Virginia National Guard’s 116th Infantry Regiment was activated. Company A would assault Omaha Beach as part of the First Division’s Task Force O.
By the end of the day, nineteen of them were Killed In Action. At the time, Bedford’s population was 3,200. That meant that proportionally, Bedford suffered a larger loss than any other community in the United States.
To learn more about “The Bedford Boys” and The National D-Day Memorial, click the link below.
I should also note here that the National D-Day Memorial is now located in Bedford. If you’ve never been, you should schedule a visit soon!
I hope you took the time today to remember our D-Day Veterans … I did.
It’s often said that these men were from our “greatest generation” and I tend to agree. Because they were the “greatest” doesn’t take away from those that followed. Bedford is a good example.
Today, there is another group of “Bedford Boys” but they’re not military … they’re Firefighters.
These “boys” are just as professional and dedicated as their predecessors. They’re a class act and a great Department that I’ve wrote about several times here on Ironfiremen.com.
Their Captain, Greg Fulton (or “413″ as I call him) stopped by my station this morning (several of their members, including their Chief work for my Department). We had a great conversation about all the things I stand for … The Brotherhood… Tradition, Pride, Honor and Respect.
I got to meet and hang out with a group of his boys at the Harrisburg, Pa Fire Expo. Greg (413) and I shared a little of that experience from both perspectives (don’t worry boys … I didn’t tell him everything…LOL) .
click to enlarge
Then, Greg told me of their recent loss.
A past Chief, John Turner passed away just last week.
Thinking about today’s anniversary (D-Day), The Bedford Boys and The Bedford FD’s loss, I found it ironic that Chief Turner was appointed to the BFD in 1944.
Greg told me several stories about Chief Turner.
Then he told me about the funeral.
The Bedford Fire Department carried Chief Turner to his final resting place in a piece of apparatus from the BFD.
The Respect, Honor and Tradition were evident!
They didn’t carry the Chief in just any piece, they carried him in their 1927 Seagrave!
That’s the actual truck pictured left.
It was not only a front line piece for the BFD, it was also the first motorized fire truck in Bedford County at the time.
Can you believe the purchase price was a whopping $12,500?
It got away (out) of the Department / County at one time but the boys located her, bought her back and refurbished her to original condition. It’s now on display at the Bedford County Welcome Center. When you come to visit the D-Day Memorial, be sure to stop by and see it.
Again I’ll mention Tradition, Pride, Honor and Respect. I think the original “Bedford Boys” would be PROUD of the job today’s Bedford Boys are doing. Keep up the strong work Brothers and THANKS!
I don’t do it often but I want to revisit a post from my past. I have a lot of new followers / fans who may not have been around in the early days and believe it or not … sometimes I actually managed to get up some cool posts….LOL
I’m back on duty today and we have a fill-in. We had an overtime person for 1/2 the shift but tonight we got a transfer from the South Side.
I was happy to see Adam Fleming (or “Snowbird” as I so affectionately call him) walk into the house this evening.
Snowbird and I go way back. We were assigned together at Station #6 back in 1997 just after I made Lieutenant.
Station #6 was not only a busy house (and still is) but it also held a lot of family memories for me as my dad spent the majority of his career there.
Needless to say, Snowbird and I seen a lot of work together but we also had just as much fun. We became good friends.
Fast forward to the year 2011 and I got a very cool phone call from him.
He was telling me about this “bar” he had built for his basement. Of course he knows how much I enjoy a “tall tottie” or an ice cold Old Milwaukee so he figured I should have one (or twelve) at his place just for “old time sake”.
What he described over the phone didn’t touch what I found when I got to his house that day.
WOW!!! I was speechless! He had taken an actual fire truck and made it into a BAR!!! This thing was amazing!
I’ve drank at some very fancy places. I’ve also had a few at some dumps but this bar ranks right up there with the coolest ever. Almost every piece he used was salvaged from a 1988 Pierce Arrow.
The rig came from the Orange, NJ Fire Department. I wrote a little about the rig and Snowbird’s plans in a the post linked below …..
Starting to see what I mean? Well tonight, we were talking about the bar and he tells me one of the guys who helped him build it has some MUCH BETTER PHOTOS.
His friend Joe Amato lives in our area and was a huge help in the bar’s construction (along with Robert Shumate). Joe is also originally from up on the other side of the Mason – Dixon line but now lives in our area and serves as a volunteer for a local Fire / Rescue Department. Use this link below to see more than 100 other photos of the bar from Joe’s Face Book page ….
She always knows what to say and how to say it. She told me of the troubles I’d face before I actually did. She warned me about “triggers”. Something that will “trigger” a memory and bring all my emotion back to the surface.
I’m still not sure if it’s PTSD or simply depression that I’ve been fighting but I can tell you this …. it’s a hell of a battle.
I’ve talked about it here on Ironfiremen.com before and it’s worth re-mentioning. Depression and PTSD are REAL. They’re an illness / disease that are both bigger than I ever imagined.
I bring this up again for a couple reasons. First, I had a rough weekend and kind of made mention of it in a status update on Face Book. As always, it resulted in an overwhelming show of support. THANKS to each and everyone of you.
The 2nd reason I’m revisiting this topic is because June is PTSD Awareness Month!
I’ll add here to keep in mind that it’s not just our soldiers who suffer from PTSD. I’d bet you’d be shocked to know how many of our Brothers and Sisters (Firefighters, EMS providers and Police Officers) suffer from and battle PTSD on a daily basis.
Special Thanks to a good friend and Brother Firefighter, Gary Allen Ridenour for sharing the links with me.
“Take the Step” and help raise PTSD awareness.
The first link below is from the Department of Veterans Affairs but they have a “public” section for you to visit.
And for the record, I’m feeling better today. I’m hoping for a long run of “good days”. Don’t let my postings or status updates worry ya. I’ve been sharing my story (and emotions) with you in hopes that someone out will realize (like I did) that they are not alone. Maybe someone out there will see my battles and realize that they too can fight. Several folks have told me that my postings on these topics have actually helped them in one way or another. For me, that makes it all worth it so I’ll keep writing about it when I can.
Hopefully I’ll kick this “writer’s block” in the butt as well. I’ve been wanting to get something up for ya but I just haven’t been able to focus here lately.
Of course my busy schedule doesn’t help matters much either. Hay season is here and that always occupies a lot of my time and adds to my stress level but I’ll figure all that out too (I’m tougher than I look …LOL). We had a very productive day in the fields on Saturday due to some GREAT help from family and friends. I just hope I didn’t over work em on the opening day of our season … we’ve got a lot more left to get up
So, until I get back to ya …. stay SAFE and in House!
LOL …. those are 3 basic things I try my best to avoid fooling with because you never know what’s going to happen!
I guess I should add natural gas to the list as well. I’ve always hated those “odor of gas” calls, especially when you can’t find the source. Well today, that wasn’t a problem.
First thing this morning, we were dispatched, single engine no doubt; for a truck that had hit a gas line. Something didn’t “feel” right so, while still en route; I requested a Ladder be added to the assignment.
We were more than a block away from the address when we ran into what seemed like a wall of gas. A truck working in an alley way had taken a commercial gas meter completely off a building and natural gas was free flowing through the 1 inch supply line.
What made it more interesting was the location. On one side of the alley is all commercial buildings. On the other side however is all residential.
A quick investigation found the meter completely broken off below the shut off and there was no cut off box in the alley or street side…. in other words … I couldn’t stop the flow! I established “command” and quickly upgraded to a full assignment.
My first assignment was directed toward evacuation. We evacuated an entire block (20+ adults, 4 children and 4 pets) before the gas company arrived and was able to plug the leak. Lines were laid, staging areas established, streets closed etc. We were VERY busy taking care of everything that needed taken care of.
Here’s the thing …. it all went as smooth as silk and I LOVE IT!!! I know it’s supposed to happen like that on every incident but we all know it usually doesn’t. This incident got big quick and covered a large area. It had all the potential to turn into a real cluster but it didn’t and that’s because of the companies assigned.
I don’t brag enough about the Battalion I work in. Rhett (FireCritic.com) and I don’t get to “publicize” or talk about the Department we work for because we (or our sites) are not endorsed or supported by our Department. It’s probably (and honestly) closer to the exact opposite of support and that’s a shame. As much as I’d like to be able to tell ya what a GREAT job our Department does on a daily basis, I can’t.
What I will say is what a GREAT job C-shift and the North Battalion of my Department does. Today’s incident would not have ran so smoothly without the well trained and disciplined Officers and members we have on shift. We could have very easily made Fire Geezer’s headlines today with another big “Ka Boom”. Thankfully, we didn’t. It’s always a good feeling when you leave a scene knowing that everything went exactly the way it should have. I had that feeling this morning and it’s all because of the 21 members assembled on scene (and our AWESOME dispatchers).
So, what I wanted to say is THANK YOU for a job well done to each and every member assigned to that incident this morning. Your professionalism and dedication to duty make our job much easier and it’s an honor to work beside you all.
Moving on … I hope everyone had a great Memorial weekend. I hope more so that you took the time to remember the reason why we have Memorial Day in the first place.
I took a moment to reflect on our fallen and what Memorial Day means to me.
I thought not only of our soldiers but also of the 343 murdered in the towers back in 2001. They too were on the “front lines” of the war on terror.
My thoughts also lingered on a family member taken too early. The picture to the left is in memory of my cousin, Chase Prasnicki who was Killed In Action on June 27, 2012 just 5 days after his deployment. I wrote about Chase and others in a 2012 post….
It was kind of a difficult and emotional day for me. Thoughts and memories of my brother Jackson weighed heavy on my mind and heart.
Being surrounded by family helped get me through the day. My youngest daughter, Reba; was working but my eldest, Randi-Jo; my wife Donna, the Buckaroo and Kevin all spent the day with me.
Like everything I do, it was quite the adventure. I came across a fairly big snapping turtle on my way home yesterday morning. I don’t know how he got where he was but I decided to give him a ride up to the house and introduce him to our little creek.
Of course the Buckaroo had to check him out first. I took some video of him trying to put the turtle back in the truck …. here it is …
LOL…. don’t worry. No turtles or the Buckaroo were harmed in the making of that video. The day got better.
After a little farm work, we all loaded up on the 4-wheelers (quads for those of you above the Mason-Dixon…lol) and headed to our fishing hole.
The Buckaroo was pulling em out right and left! Here’s another short video of that …
After some fishing, we took a nice ride on the mountain. It was very relaxing and just what I needed. If only it could have lasted longer!
Well, we start our 4 day break in the morning and Kevin and I will be starting our first cut of hay. As funny as it sounds, I’m a little excited about getting back to spending all day in the tractor. That too is a peaceful place for me…
I’ll try to keep ya updated on our progress as well as cover a few more topics that I’ve been wanting to visit. Until I get back, stay SAFE and in House!
“From the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, “Charleston 9: The Ultimate Sacrifice”, looks at the dramatic changes made in the operations of South Carolina’s Charleston Fire Department following the deaths of nine firefighters on June 18, 2007. The video, produced by STATter911 Communications and Greg Guise Media, focuses on how the leadership of the late Chief Tom Carr helped the department recover after such a devastating loss”
I’ve gotten several comments, e-mails etc since attending the Harrisburg, Pa Fire Expo last weekend. Like all of the trips Rhett, Zach Green, the MN8 FoxFire Team and I take, this one’s success was well beyond expectations.
I hit some of the highlights of our Expo adventures in my latest post. Use the link below to read that article if you missed out on the details.
Most of the comments I received were “private” although lots of Brothers and Sisters we met “tagged” themselves in photos and left some great “public” comments. Several of the messages dealt with my visit to two neighboring companies … Colonial Park Fire Company (#33) and the Progress Fire Company (#32). Both were AWESOME visits!
To begin with, Lt Mike Rodkey of Colonial Park hit me up to invite us for dinner. We had never met prior to his invite.
After a few conversations and some scheduling, we arranged to meet them at the station for dinner on Friday evening after our first day on the Expo exhibit floor. I was exhausted.
My wife (Donna) had traveled with me to Harrisburg and accompanied me to Colonial Park. We felt welcome as soon as we got out of the truck.
This was obviously not my first invitation / visit to a firehouse. It was also not the first time I had been invited to share a meal with a Company of firefighters but each experience is as emotional as the first.
I can’t explain it but there’s “something” special that happens for me at these events. I don’t know why Brothers and Sisters across the Country choose to share these things with me but they do. It’s humbling.
One of the first things I noticed when we arrived was the crowd. There was a lot of people gathered but what stood out most was the number of wives and children …. FAMILY …. it was obvious to me that Colonial Park is a firehouse vs. “station.
Something as seemingly simple as the station tour can make an overwhelming impact on a first time visitor to a station (house). My tour was given by a young “live-in” member, “Cheech”. The PRIDE he displayed in showing me each and every little detail of the station was infectious. He knew and explained the history of things like their custom kitchen table, the run board, the photos on the wall displayed in custom diamond plate holders. Their Public Safety Education trailer and custom made “props”.
They have a “Trophy Room” near the front entrance of the station. Trophies and photos line the walls and the center piece is a early model rig used by Colonial Park. Sam Swartz conducted the tour of this room. Sam has been a volunteer at Colonial Park for over 50 years! That in itself says something about who Colonial Park is … about the type of Company they are.
While I was getting a tour of the house, others were cooking and setting the table. It wasn’t long before we all sat down to a fabulous meal…. TOGETHER. Sharing a meal (or “breaking bread” as we call it) is also something very personal. This wasn’t each person grabbing a plate and gulping the food down in which ever secluded place each chose. This was a group of firefighters … husbands, wives and children … a FAMILY sitting down to eat together, talking across, up and down the table and they had invited ME into their group.
I often hear people on the job talk about the mythical “Brotherhood” and how it either doesn’t exist or is fading. I couldn’t disagree more.
After our meal, we gathered for a few pictures and I had to say my “good-byes” for the evening. I got a little emotional while talking with them … I do that more and more here lately. You see, I explained to them that the Brotherhood is NOT dead. It’s alive and well in houses just like Colonial Park all across our Country. Sometimes, the members just have to slow down for a minute to see it. Sometimes, it takes someone like me, looking (coming) in from the “outside”; to point it out.
It can be overwhelming to see it working … the Brotherhood. To KNOW it still exists. It’s overwhelming to me because I need it. I need to KNOW it lives and that I’m a part of it …we CAN’T do this job alone. The Brotherhood is a big part of why I joined the Fire Service and I couldn’t stand seeing it gone.
The Brotherhood doesn’t have to be something big …. something tangible. The heart of Brotherhood is often found in the seemingly small things. TRADITION, PRIDE, HONOR and RESPECT is shown in a multitude of ways.
I also fielded several questions about the kilts Rhett and I often wear. And for those of you who don’t know, there is a difference between a man wearing a dress and a kilt …. I’m not sure you really want to know what that difference is though …LOL
Rhett and I currently have two kilts that we LOVE. One is Alt Kilt, the other a Bunker Kilt (click on the names for a link). Kilts are a huge part of Fire Service history here in the USA. Yea … kilts.
In the beginning of our Countries development, being a firefighter (or police officer) wasn’t a highly sought after job. In the big cities, these positions were often filled by Scottish and Irish immigrants. When these members died, their funerals were often traditional of their homeland …. kilts, bagpipes, drums etc.
We wear our kilts out of RESPECT and to HONOR those who came before us. So Brothers and Sisters (or whoever) will ask us why and we can share some of the history and TRADITION of our job. We wear them with PRIDE (plus … we look so damn good in em! LOL)
I get the same thing here at home or around the station. The odds are that if you drop by my house, or see a pic of me from the station; I’m wearing my bunker pants.
No, we are NOT as busy as a Rescue Company in FDNY but I EXPECT to be! The first time our rig rolls out the door (on a run, for training, to the grocery store etc) I have em on. You’ll hardly ever catch me on the rig without them on.
I EXPECT fire. I also wear my seat belt … ALL THE TIME. I don’t want to be out on the road and catch a run without being ready. I can’t undo my belt and stand up to get dressed while responding. I don’t want to roll into a “job” and jump out of the rig to get dressed in the street. I can however slide on my coat and SCBA on with the seat belt secured…. that’s why I wear my bunkers. I’m ready to work.
I don’t get what the big deal with our kilts and bunker pants is. If I wore a baker’s apron and chef hat I could understand it. We are FIREFIGHTERS … it’s what we wear and what we do!
Anyway, I’m back on duty tomorrow but will catch up with ya again as soon as possible. Until then, stay SAFE and in House!
Botetourt County’s Emergency Services has made our local news again. Just over a year ago, the County hired Carr Boyd to serve as their Emergency Services Coordinator. It was a HUGE debate and met with a lot of criticism.
Several of the County’s Volunteer Chiefs ( two, more so than others ) were very out spoken and did not support the hiring of this position. At the time, it seemed as if their main argument against the position was that the Coordinator would have the authority to assume command of an emergency incident if necessary. One Chief (now former) was even quoted as saying ….
if an emergency services director assumes control of a scene “there are going to be a lot of hurt feelings and busted noses.”
They were using terms like “my scene” and saying things like they didn’t need anyone coming in “here” and telling them how or what to do. There were a lot of egos flying around and it seemed to me that the only people who could get hurt were the ones whom Botetourt’s Emergency Services were there to protect … it’s citizens and visitors.
Here’s a quote from an article I posted back when this all started … “This job is NOT ABOUT YOU or being in “CONTROL”. It’s not YOUR fire. It’s about the people we have sworn to serve and protect. There is no shame in asking for or accepting help. If supplemental paid positions will decrease response times and increase the level of Public Safety in Botetourt County, then I’m all for it and any Chief in his right mind should be as well. Drop the egos and do the right thing guys. DO YOUR JOB … I have family who lives there and I’m depending on you! ALL OF YOU !” Read that entire article in the link below …
Above, I said it took “them” just over a year to accomplish their goal. By that, I meant the group that opposed the position in the first place…. YEA …. they never went away (well … one of em did). Some are actually still serving as Volunteers within the County (some being Chief and/or Company Officers).
More “hurt feelings and busted noses” for Botetourt County’s Emergency Services.
First off, I’m EMBARRASSED. I’m embarrassed and ASHAMED. There’s a WHOLE lot more to this story than is being told (in the “main stream” media anyway).
I’m embarrassed and ashamed because it seems as if Chief Boyd has been hung out to dry. The only person stepping out in support of him is, the newly appointed (and former) Buchanan Volunteer Fire Chief; John Manspile. In an article on Roanoke.com Cheif Manspile said …
“He’s been exactly what this county needed,” Buchanan Volunteer Fire Chief John Manspile said. “He’s been doing what was practical, what needs to be done. … I can’t see where he’s done anything wrong.”
Chief Boyd has yet to comment publicly on the issue. He’s showing a level of tact and restraint I don’t think I myself possess.
I’ve been looking (waiting) for someone to EXPLAIN. To tell us the details. Why would Chief Carr relocate his family all the way from NC to work a single year and then retire? Because he was FORCED OUT … that’s why (or that’s my opinion anyway).
I’m getting reports (off the record) that some members of the group that initially opposed the position and Boyd’s hiring never gave up their fight.
Reportedly lead by one of the Volunteer Fire Chiefs, who is himself a convicted felon; this group set out to rid the County of Boyd and apparently they have succeeded … BUT AT WHO’S COST?
It’s rumored that the group discovered an issue with Boyd’s training. I say “rumored” because I haven’t confirmed it as of yet. We know he was a Captain (and “Acting” Battalion Chief) in Charlotte, NC before coming to Botetourt County. He must have had some training.
The rumor continues that the group took the issue to the Board of Supervisors and gave the option … Boyd’s resignation or the resignation of several of the volunteers. If that is indeed the case, and how it “went down”; then the Board made the WRONG decision.
Is this a “paid vs volunteer” or a “good ol boy club” issue? The County has already said that they plan to fill the position. I wonder if the same group opposes that? Or maybe it was just Chief Boyd they opposed? I wonder who they would support for the position …. one of their own?
Someone who wouldn’t have to make the tough decisions. Someone who wouldn’t have to enforce policy? Ahhhhh ….. the ol 2 steps forward, 6 steps back game!
Just recently, the Botetourt’s Board of Supervisors heard the story of Volunteer Companies being unable to staff units while citizens were on scene performing CPR for extended period of time.
Like many other Departments across the Country, Botetourt needs to find new ways to meet the needs of their citizens. They need to find a new way of doing business in relation to providing Emergency Services. Carr Boyd was doing just that.
I’m not sure if the answer is through a Combination , Career or all Volunteer System but I do know they need to become “forward thinking” rather than taking leaps backwards (like it appears they just have). I also feel that whatever direction they decide to go, convicted felons and those who place personal gain over Public Safety shouldn’t be a part of it. The past Buchanan “issues” in Botetourt should have proven that point to the Supervisors.
I have spoken to Carr Boyd recently. Although he would not comment on the current issues, he did share that his main concern at this point is assuring that the members of Botetourt’s Emergency Services are taken care of (career and volunteer members) through this ordeal.
I’m sure he could have “thrown some stones” …. he didn’t. Instead, he took the road of a good Officer … of a good Leader … even after all this, he’s “looking after the men” (and women). Carr Boyd is a CLASS ACT. I wish some of remaining Officers in Botetourt County were more like him.
I wrote this post a couple days ago and have had it awaiting publishing in my que. Apparently, someone was looking over my shoulder as I was typing. I say this because of a comment I received last night. If you missed it, I posted it in a short stand alone post late last night.
Use the link below and take a look… it may help you understand just a little more of some of the challenges (and types of people) Carr Boyd faced over the past year…
First off, let me say thank you for the continued support. My last post, “You can’t teach Heart” was very well received and I appreciate it . It’s nice to know that I still have a few readers / followers out there.
I do need to clarify one thing though. I’ve received several e-mails, phone calls, messages etc following that post saying how good it is to have the “old” Captain Wines “back”. They say they are glad I’m past (or over) my grieving etc….and that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
I know I took you folks to some “dark” places over the last 4 months but I felt compelled to do so. I shared with you some of my thoughts’ feeling and lessons learned following my brother’s death by suicide. I tried to be as honest and open as possible.
Just because I’m a little more visible and posting on a more regular basis doesn’t mean I’m “past” or “over” anything. I NEVER will be. There’s a hole in my heart that will never be filled.
There’s not an hour that goes by that I don’t think of Jackson. The reminders are EVERYWHERE and I can’t hide or run from them. I’m slowly learning to embrace them but it’s hard.
I’m fighting depression every minute I’m awake and I still grieve his death. It’s getting better but, it’s been an uphill struggle. I never knew or understood what a horrible illness / disease depression was (is) before the events of December 30th.
I haven’t told ya in a while so I’ll remind you now that we are ALL “climbing”. We are ALL fighting demons of one sort or another. I’ll also remind you that we are NOT alone … there ARE folks out there who know and understand what we are going through and they stand ready to help us through whatever challenges we face.
If you’re like me and need someone to talk to or lean on, PLEASE try one of the links below …. there’s no shame in it. It’s working for me and it can for you too …
Ok ….lets move on. So around where I work, it’s promotional testing time. That equates to “silly season” for me!
I call it that because everything required to participate in the process and because of all the “jockeying for position” that’s already started.
We will be testing for Lieutenant, 1st Lieutenant, Captain, and Battalion Chief. There will also be a Deputy Chief of Operations appointed due to an upcoming retirement. As far as the other positions, we don’t even know how many are open yet (around here, it all depends on who’s counting).
Promotional testing can be one of the most stressful events of a firefighter’s career. Usually, there’s a huge reading list, hours upon hours of study (additional times away from family), the testing process itself and then the waiting game.
We have a written test to narrow the field of candidates (Lieutenant-Captain) followed by a practical portion. For the Lt. candidates, the practicals are made up of a 10 minute presentation (on the same subject / topic which is announced following the written test), a driving course / evaluation, a pumping evolution and an IMS / Fire scenario.
The 1st Lt., Captain and Battalion candidates will also face a fire / IMS scenario, a “problem employee” situation and a presentation. Battalion Chief candidates will work an “in basket” scenario instead of the presentation. Again …. all very stressful.
Rhett actually took his written test on Wednesday. He take the practicals next week. Being that he is already a Lieutenant, he has the option to test for 1st Lt and / or Captain. He is testing for both.
GOOD LUCK to all of our candidates (at every level). As a Company Officer, I hope you’ll remember to take can of your members. If you do, you’ll have a long and enjoyable career. If you don’t …. LMAO … well lets just say that they can make you life hell.
That brings me to recruitment. I HATE that word. I guess it’s not so much the word as it is how many Departments go about it (“recruitment”). They’re doing it WRONG!!
I’ve always said that if someone has to come out looking for you, and then try to convince you that “this” is what you want to do or who you want to work for … THEN I DON’T WANT YOU. We’re FIREFIGHTERS ….. we deal with lives not files, folders or boxes!
I hear of Departments complaining about a lowered number of applicants all the time. They look at all these “outside” reasons in search for a reason /solution and always miss the issues core.
To me, it’s an internal issue. An issue within that Department. In my opinion, it shows a lack of (or poor) leadership / management (or something along those lines). Either way, I’d bet that the members of that Department are NOT happy. That’s sad because our MEMBERS are our best recruiters and it’s so easy to keep firefighters happy!
Think about it. When the members are happy, they reflect a positive image of their Department. When they’re out in the community and someone asks them about “what they do” or where / who they work for, a happy employee is eager to share that information and does so in a positive manner.
On the other hand, an unhappy or disgruntled employee’s response will most likely be “you don’t want to work here”…. OUR MEMBERS ARE OUR BEST RECRUITERS!
My good friend and Brother Tiger Schmittendorf is one of (if not “the”) our Nation’s top fire recruiters. He’s pictured on the far left in the photo above left (with Me, Rhett and Dave Statter). Tiger runs several web sites worth visiting and if you’re having recruitment issues / problems then he’s the man you want to see.
I’ve been using that saying for several years now and believe it to be true.
We are surrounded by the absolute best instructors this profession has to offer on a daily basis. They can teach most any subject … strategy and tactics, search and rescue, ventilation, water supply, pump / ladder ops, incident command, high rise firefighting, Mayday, RIC etc. The one thing they can’t teach is “HEART”. You either have it or you don’t.
I’m not sure I can exactly define what I mean by “heart” but it’s at least a passion for “the job” as well as the drive and determination to fulfill the duties expected of us (both on and off the fire ground). It’s the willingness and eagerness to “do the right thing” no matter the cost and to sacrifice for others.
I’ve always said that all I need is a month or two in the same station and/or one working fire to know whether or not a probie (or non-probationary firefighter for that matter) “gets it”. That quickly, I can determine if he or she has “heart”.
You can buy all the newest and latest gear. This gadget, that one and two more of these. You can put this sticker or that one on your helmet, this decal on the back window of your truck. Wear any tee-shirt you want with whatever logo or saying on it.
Give me one set of steps, leading to an attic where fire is rolling down on you while blowing out the eaves and/or dormer.
Push into the fire floor from the adjacent window or the floor above to search without a hose line. Try a little VES (Vent Enter Search) when the floor is rocking.
Crawl down a dark, black, smokey hallway. So dark you can’t see your nose or the lens of your mask. The heat so hot that every breath you take hurts. Reaching out … feeling for anything you can find…. a hole to fall into or a body…. who knows? It’s your first time in this situation …. you’ll wonder how close you’ll be to that body when you find it and what it will look like when you get there.
It’s already hot and getting hotter. Open the nozzle or not? Keep pushing or back out? Someone will understand …. the circumstances just weren’t where we needed them to be … right? Nobody will blame or question you. There are multiple reasons to quit and turn around but only two reasons to keep pushing…. 1.) Someone is (or may be) in there and 2.) this is what you took an oath and signed up for …. it’s your DUTY and job!
Do you have the HEART to push on or will you quit? It’s not easy … if it was, any and everyone would do it. If you don’t (have the heart), I’m sorry…. IT CAN’T BE TAUGHT.
How about the EMS call at 3am? The nausea and vomiting for 2 days. The abdominal pain or difficulty breathing despite the fact they smoke 3 packs a day.
Do you get up bitching? Complaining and cursing? Are you mad because you came to work, fully knowing your job was to staff the ambulance ; and they actually asked you to run a call? Did you think there was a call volume “limit” when you joined?
Or, do you realize that although this is your 15th call of the tour, it may be the caller’s 1st emergency. Do you even consider that the person you’r responding to may be a family member of mine. Maybe they are kin to someone you work with…. maybe they are related to you? If you knew that going in, would your outlook have changed? It shouldn’t …. every run should receive the same commitment.
To me, that’s a little bit about what “HEART” is on the job….. it’s doing our job and doing it with PRIDE, HONOR and RESPECT.
There is also “HEART” away from the job and I guess the better word there would be “off duty” because those of you who have “HEART” are never really “off the job”.
Rhett and I are fortunate in that we Know, meet and see a lot of Brothers and Sisters who “get it” … who have “HEART” and/or display, understand and promote “The Brotherhood”. We see examples of it on a daily basis because we know what we’re looking for. The sad part of what we see is that so many Brothers and Sisters look right past it never knowing what they saw.
I could give ya many, many examples but instead, I want to share just a few with ya from our experience at FDIC 2013 (this will by far not be ALL the examples we encountered).
Take the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb for example.
This is the first time FDIC has had 343 climbers. This year, they actually surpassed that number.
NONE of these climbs are easy. I often see folks in the staging areas and think to myself … “”they are going to have a hard time making 110 stories”. They HAVE to know that going into the climb themselves yet, they register and show up anyway. THEY CLIMB! That’s HEART!
During the climb, you’ll find many who, instead of making a “race” out of it; stay behind to assure every member completes their journey (climb). Anybody can pass the Brother or Sister in front of them and push on to “look good”. It takes HEART to hold back and assure nobody is left behind.
I’m surrounded by Founding and Committee Members of the Stair Climbs. You would think “that” sacrifice would be enough.
NOPE … Brothers like Rhett Fleitz, Brian Brush and Andrew Catron continue to climb. For them, this is their 6th or 7th climb (maybe even more for Brian).
Why? They’ve done their duty. By completing just one, they’ve accomplished more than most. For them (us) it’s not about that. It’s about HONOR. Honoring our fallen.
It’s about SUPPORT. Supporting the NFFF and our fallen’s families.
These Brothers “GET IT”. Not only that, they want YOU to get it as well! They promote the Climbs and sacrifice their time to serve on committees, organize events etc.
I’m not saying you have to “climb” to “get it” but these Brothers DO and that’s why they CLIMB!
I’ll give ya another example…. Kim Fitzsimmons.
Many of you may know Kim from her Face Book Page. Others may know her from her fire ground photography (or her drawings with red crayons…LOL)
Seems like a pretty full plate towards “the Brotherhood”, “getting it” and/or having “Heart” huh? Well, Kim learned of the “Meet-Up” Rhett and I were having at FDIC and she decided she just couldn’t miss it. She drove all the way up to FDIC just to attend our Meet-Up knowing it was sponsored in part by the NFE! She wasn’t “looking” for anything …. she wanted to support and promote the NFE while sharing and spreading The Brotherhood. She made the drive alone … she “gets it”. Kim has HEART!
Here’s another NFE Officer Club Member who “gets it” ….Jill Boden.
Jill attended FDIC all week. We first met her at the FOOLS Bash but have known her for some time now through her Face Book page as well as the Officer’s Club.
She attended the NFFF Stop Drop and Rock and Roll Event as well …. anywhere support for the Brother / Sisterhood was needed, Jill could be spotted.
She “worked the room” of our Meet-Up like a pro. Introducing herself and spreading the word about the NFE, the NFFF and more. Jill also “gets it” and she displayed it all week!
Not only does she look after us …. she’s devoting her time to take care of our spouses as well!
Her mission … “Strengthen, ignite and rescue Firefighter marriages. Nurture our fire wife community with encouragement, support and friendship. To Build up our fire wives in mind, body and spirit to be wise, strong and enduring. To bring an even deeper sense of community to the fire service family”.
Must I say more? OBVIOUSLY … Lori “GETS IT”. I hope you get it too! Use the links below to get a head start …..
Ok …for a final two (but not the only remaining) examples from FDIC, I’ll go back to our Meet-Up.
At the end of the night, a young (or at least “younger”) Brother came up to me. He wanted to buy me a beer (the event was over and the open bar changed to cash bar). He was in the group of members from Tennessee that included Shane Lester and William Banks.
Some wore helmets, others cowboy hats. They were ALL Brothers who obviously “get it”.
Anyway, I already had 2 full beers in my hand (I know…. what are the odds of that…LOL) and it was last call.
I told this young brother that instead of buying me a beer that I obviously didn’t need, to give the $5 he was going to spend to the Sons of the Flag Burn Foundation.
I watched as he walked over to Ryan, Zane, Nathan and Rob Wiedmann and handed them the money. HE HANDED THEM THE MONEY! I can’t tell you how good it felt to see a young member “GET IT”. I hope he understands what (and why) he did what he did. He summed up what our Meet-Up was all about!!
Some many other Brothers and Sisters in attendance that night kept thanking me and Rhett for hosting the event. They kept saying that we were what the Brotherhood was all about and how much they looked up to what we do for the fire service.
I explained to each of them …. Rhett, Shane (NFE), Andrew and I did nothing. We rented a room and bought a bunch of beer.
They …. EVERY Brother and Sister in attendance did so much more. They gave the true display of Brother.
Again I’ll say that I and many others can / could teach you / them to perform most any task required of us in the Fire Service. We CAN’T teach them to sacrifice their time and money to spend time promoting the Brotherhood and supporting organizations worthy of our attention.
Despite having to drive 8 hours in the pouring rain, we made it home safely. I hope everyone else did as well.
I’m worn out … mentally and physically. Spent some time with the Buckaroo and my beautiful bride before heading out to the hot tub for a little “unwind” time while thinking over everything we experienced this week.
Can you tell by the pic? You can take the fireman out of FDIC but you can’t take FDIC out of the fireman! LOL
What I mean by that is FDIC is so huge and all encompassing that there’s no way you can attend and not come away with something. A full week of training and Brotherhood shared by the absolute BEST in our business! I’ll share with ya a little of what I experienced and brought home …
Unfortunately, Rhett and I did not attend any of the training this year. Our schedule simply wouldn’t allow it.
This year, we represented 2 GREAT companies and friends of the Fire Service while working their booths on the exhibit floor.
Black Diamond Boots asked us to be in their booth this year and we couldn’t have been more pleased. Rhett and I are both big fans of Black Diamond and the X2 Boot. We wear them in our gear and have for years.
That’s what makes it easy for us to be in a booth like Black Diamonds (that and the “Booth Babes”) …. it’s a great product and we use it daily. We believe in it and can talk to potential buyers in an up front and honest manner.
When we’re standing there selling these boots, we are WEARING them. We wear them ALL DAY LONG … 3 days in a row! We work in them, we climb in them. We can do this because they are a great boot …. they fit well and they’re comfortable.
Would you trust a fire boot salesman wearing Nike tennis shoes? I didn’t think so. Anyway, we got to meet a lot of great Brothers and Sisters shopping for boots. We (Black Diamond) even gave a pair away each day. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to try on a pair. It was GREAT meeting you all. We know you’re gonna love this boot so be sure to visit their web site or find them on Face Book to locate your local dealer.
We only spent 4 hours with Black Diamond. The rest of our time on the floor was spent with Zach Green in the MN8 FoxFire booth.
Rhett and I have been part of the FoxFire Family for several years now. We’re a natural fit!
It’s another product that we use every day on the job. It’s a product geared toward firefighter safety and accountability …. AND IT WORKS!
By firefighters for firefighters … who understands us better?
This year was VERY exciting for Zach and our team as we unveiled several NEW PRODUCTS at the show. One of those products is a SCBA Identifier Tag. Another GREAT “Illuminating” product to aid us in visibility and accountability.
We also had our good friends from Box Alarm Leather in the booth to help promote our Illuminating Radio Straps.
That’s right …. made right here in the USA by Box Alarm Leather, they come with a lifetime warranty and THEY GLOW!
Rhett and I have been big fans of Box Alarm for years as well. GREAT quality with quick and reliable service. They are the company who made our custom fronts as well.
You can purchase the Radio Strap, a universal radio case and anti-sway strap as a complete kit or purchase them separately (they ALL “Illuminate”!!!). Be sure to visit these links to learn more and order yours today!
It’s a GREAT event! “Over the past ten years, Stop, Drop, Rock ‘n’ Roll has played an important part in helping us honor America’s fallen firefighters. It is a chance for firefighters to give back to the fire service and have fun at the same time. Through a small donation at the door you have all helped the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation honor and support the families of firefighters who have died in the line of duty.”
This years entertainment was none other than Darryl Worley and he did ONE HELL OF A JOB!
He played acoustic and sounded GREAT and even took the time to sign autographs and pose for pictures afterwards. He ended the show with one of his hits, “Have you forgotten?”
The only thing better than listening to Darryl sing was getting to dance to his music with the CEO of Phenix Helmets, Nicole Clesceri ! I’m not sure of the final numbers but I think the auction went ok as well this year. I do know that everyone in attendance had a good time and we can only hope we raised a LOT of money for the NFFF and our surviving families.
Another event we attended was the Fire Rescue, Fire / EMS Blog Network and Firefighter Nation “Meet Up”.
For those of you who don’t know, Rhett, Dave Statter and I (along with SEVERAL others) have our sites hosted by the Fire / EMS Blog Network. The Network is FULL of many great writers providing us all with a variety of resources related to the job.
Fire Rescue Magazine Editor in Chief, Tim Sendelbach recognized several of our writers for their contributions this year. I was honored to have been one of those recognized. It was totally unexpected … I was humbled and HONORED.
Afterwards, we headed over to dinner with our MN8 FoxFire family.
Every year at FDIC, Zach treats the team to dinner on Friday night.
It amazed me to think back over the past few years and realize just how much (and quickly) our team / family has grown.
Speaking of renting out an entire Building …. later that evening, Rhett and I also hosted our very own “Meet-Up” at the Hard Rock Cafe and it too was a HUGE success!
WOW! There were 100-150 people who came out to share a few drinks and some Brotherhood with us. We have always wanted to do something like this but for one reason or another haven’t been able to pull it off.
For me, beyond the attendance; there were several highlights of the evening. The first, was a special presentation made to me by Erin and Stephen Foster of Ayden’s Gifts .
“Our missions are to bring handmade memorials to those who are grieving the loss of their loved ones. Our goal is to paint something for you to cherish for years to come! Whether it is a plate, mug or figurine!”
This presentation was totally unexpected and caught me off guard. HONORED and HUMBLED doesn’t even begin to define what (or how) I felt. I’ve spoken here on the site many times of late about showing and sharing emotions (despite the outer appearance of being “tough” firefighters) …. Erin and Stephen brought me to tears that night and it happened in front of a huge crowd.
Im still not quite sure what to say.
The quote above is from their site and as far as I’m concerned, they have succeeded in accomplishing their mission! Just look at the detail here.
It’s in Carolina Blue … Jackson’s favorite team / color. It has the Carolina logo. The foot, to me; symbolizes all the “foot prints” Jackson left in my life and on my heart. The quote on the outer rim is from an Allison Krauss song that I posted about just a few weeks back in a post called “Positional Awareness … Where the Hell am I ??” .
PLEASE …. take the time to check out their site. Read the story of why they do what they do and look at some of their art work. Be sure to like and follow them as well.
Another highlight for the night was having FDNY’s Rescue 2 member Rob Wiedmann stop by.
You may remember Rob (and Firefighter Gersbeck) was seriously burned in a December 19, 2011 Crown Heights fire in Brooklyn, Ny. It was an unimaginable event that was caught on video. Dave Statter still has it up over on Statter911.com CLICK HERE for the video .
Rhett, Zach(MN8 FoxFire) and I teamed up to collect money for Rescue 2′s MayDay Fund which supported the families of Rob and James. Our reader support for the fund raiser was nothing short of amazing AMAZING and we soon hand delivered a check to Captain Flaherty and the members of rescue 2.
Rob actually dropped by our booth on the exhibit floor of FDIC. We said he simply wanted to stop by to say hello and thanks us once again for our efforts following his injury.
He also wanted to assure his gratitude was passed along to all of you who gave support (including thoughts, prayers etc).
Rob is a GREAT guy who for me, defines the meaning of HEART. I have a saying I use often … “You can’t teach heart” and Rob is a prime example.
His training and instinct played a huge role in getting him out of that building BUT … it was also “HEART”. Heart has kept him going throughout his healing process (28 months now with more surgeries scheduled). Heart drives him to continue to get out and promote the Fire Service and our Brotherhood. I’ll have more on “Heart” in an upcoming post ….
Rob was there with a few Brothers from Sons of the Flag Burn Foundation , Ryan “Birdman” Parrott, Zane, and Nathan.
You’re going to start hearing a lot about these guys and their efforts here on Ironfiremen.com in the future. We asked Ryan (the group’s founder) to say a few words at the Meet-Up and then we passed my boot around for their cause. We raised $730.00 in about 10 minutes! Be sure to check out the links below to learn more about these guys …
Again I’ll add that what really “made” the meet-up was everyone who attended. We got (and continue to get) so many comments about how much we (Rhett and I) are doing for the Brotherhood. I explained to several of the folks there that night …. we didn’t do anything. We rented a room and bought some beer. YOU GUYS … you Brothers and Sisters are the ones who showed up. You’re the ones who sacrificed your time and made the decision to attend. YOU are the the ones who “made” the event …. THAT Brothers and Sisters was the display of Brotherhood that night! Thanks again for attending!
Rhett did a little “name dropping” and shared his views on our Meet-Up and FDIC in general over on the Fire Critic. He also has links to some great pictures … read that post in the link below
There is so much more I want to share about our Meet-Up but I think I’m going to work it into one of my next posts. All in all, FDIC was a huge success for us and we can’t wait until our next event.
Thanks to EVERYONE who took the time to come up and speak to us. Be sure to follow us on Face Book to find more pictures and info on FDIC and more! Be sure to keep check back and THANKS for following …
Here’s a short video of some Pipes and Drums from the FOOLS Bash last night here at FDIC. I’ll get a more details post up as soon as I can. Meanwhile, if you’re here; be sure to stop by the MN8 FoxFire booth (#5571) or the Black Diamond Booth (#2401 between 4-6pm) and say hello.
Support has really been building for our Brothers and Sisters in and around the town of West, Texas following last week’s devastating and fatal blast.
The National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation has set up a special, National fund for the survivors.
“In light of the tragic event in West, Texas on Wednesday and in cooperation with local support efforts, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation has established a national fund to accept monetary donations to assist the survivors and coworkers of the fire and EMS personnel who died in the line of duty”.
Tim made our local news tonight due to his efforts to assist the West, Texas Fire Department.
Chief Smith left Virginia this morning at 09:00 am. They will be traveling down I-85 to Atlanta Georgia and then following I-20 into Texas.
They will be making as many stops as possible along the way to collect donations for West Texas.
They are accepting any and all donations … money, supplies, equipment etc.
If you, your Department or business would like to host Tim and his crew or have them stop at your location to pick up a donation, you can contact them through the Climax VFD site HERE(their itinerary is also listed on that site) .
There is also a Memorial Service planned for this Thursday (April 25th) in Waco Texas. Rhett has all the details over on Fire Critic (I’ll include the link) and if they get a live stream out, we will do our best to have it up on both of our sites for those unable to attend in person.
Once again I have a lot of catching up to do but this time, it’s not entirely my fault. The server for our network has been up and down over the past several days so we haven’t been able to get a post up. Hopefully, the situation is corrected now and we can get back to business as normal.
So, to catch ya up … it’s been a long week.
We worked the Thursday, Saturday, Monday cycle this week (24hr tours).
Goerge (my Lt) is off on vacation and Boots is still out on sick leave (he’s recovering well). That left just me and our newest member, Jerry Thompson at the station. Instead of calling in OT for the entire shift, the Company was placed out of service and Jerry and I detailed out to fill other vacancies for the day.
Jerry went to “The Green House” … aka Station #3 and I went down to Station #5 and rode the Ladder.
Yea… an Engine Captain on a Ladder. Well, around here; you never know what you may end up doing. I’ve explained it a few times here on the site that due to our staffing etc. an Engine Company can easily be assigned “Truck work” and vice versa.
I’ve also talked about having been assigned to a Ladder a couple times during my career. The truth of the matter is … I LOVE truck work! Especially now that 2 of our Trucks have the added responsibility of performing vehicle extrication for the City (Ladder 5 being one of them).
It was a good day with the Brothers and Sisters at Station #5. That evening, I got an over time man and put Lucky #13 back into service.
Turned out our OT man was none other than Captain Chris Trussler from down at “The Deuce” on B-shift.
Captain Trussler and I go way back….way … way … WAY back actually.
I call him “Lucky”. 1.) Because he’s got a little leprechaun in him and 2.) Because he’s so damn “lucky”.
We were both assigned to Ladder #2 as Privates back in the day (on different shifts). Like many Crusty Old Jakes, there are hundreds of stories involving / surrounding Captain Trussler. I was even involved in a few of em.
I always remember the one about a working fire in the projects near the station. There were reports of people trapped on the second floor and “Lucky” was assigned the search. The Brothers are going to work and here comes Trussler falling /rolling down the interior steps and out the front door. He had a victim. A 350 pound lady wearing her nightgown and a pair of gorilla slippers. They end up in the front yard with the lady on top of him. So a couple of the boys run over to make sure he’s still alive and he tells them … “I got the little one, her sister is still up there!” … LMAO!
Lucky’s a “Good Jake” and we had a BLAST reminiscing over old stories. He’ll be testing for Battalion Chief in the next few weeks and I hope he does well …. I’ll work for him ANY day.
Our middle day turned out MUCH busier. Instead of overtime, they transferred a man from the South Side. Keith Snead from Station #1-A was trading time with a C-shift Brother and drew the short straw. He hadn’t been here 10 minutes before we caught a working fire. Nothing says thanks for working on a beautiful Saturday morning like catching work at 07:30am. Unfortunately, the runs kept coming all day long. The saddest incident we ran was a vehicle fire. Nothing breaks your heart like rolling in on a 1967 Camaro that’s on fire. Here’s some video ….
The car was obviously custom. A good training point from this video … something to keep in your mind is just how custom it was. Even the engine was customized…. so much so that it had Nitrous aka Nitrous Oxide system. Yea …NOS… a 20lb bottle mounted beside the driver’s seat! Good thing Snead got a good knock on the fire.
I’ll let ya know how our Monday tour goes a little later but until then, I have plenty more to share.
To begin with … set your clocks, DVRs, VCR’s and whatever else you have. The Fire Critic, Rhett Fleitz; and I will be on Prime Time TV Sunday night at 7pm (April 28th)! That’s right … Rhett and I will appear on MSNBC’s 100th Episode of “Extreme Caught on Camera”. Check your local listings and be sure to check us out! Here’s the trailer …..
For the followers of mine (yea…both of you) who aren’t “on the job”, the term positional awareness is one we use in reference to knowing “where” you are. We often refer to it as inside a structure or building …or at least on the fire ground. Another term that goes along with it is situational awareness … or knowing not only where you are but what is / can happen around you.
So where am I?? I wish I knew.
It’s an uncomfortable position for me. In the past, even when I’ve been somewhere I shouldn’t be; I at least knew I was there. Now, I’m not so sure. I’m lost.
If any of ya find me, please let me know or just take me home (of course I don’t even know where “home” is anymore).
Obviously, I’m not here (where I have been or where I’m used to being). I haven’t been for 3 months now and I can’t seem to figure it out.
I’ll assume that you guys have … figured it out that is. Obviously, by my lack of postings / presence something is still not right. I also know that you’re most likely tired of hearing me whine and cry … tired of my “softer” side. Many of you have sent e-mails, comments etc excited to see bits and pieces of the “old Willie” and that style of posting back. The honest answer is that I’m just not there yet. I tried to get there but couldn’t…. not yet. At least you haven’t forgotten about me.
There is a TON of material out there and things I want to say / comment on but I just can’t find the energy to sit down and write it out. I can’t find the words. It’s not “flowing” in my mind ….. I guess it’s what they mean by writers block (if you can call me a writer…LMAO).
I’ve been in a fog. Wondering …. aimlessly. Still searching for my answers. Answers I may never find.
Maybe this direction, these type of postings is where I need to be. Maybe I can be of more help to the Brotherhood by sharing these stories than I can of my everyday firehouse life / opinion etc.
I can’t imagine keeping a very big audience along this path but if I can make a difference in just one Brother or Sister’s life, I think it would be worth it.
I don’t know where I’m going yet … hell, I’m not 100% sure of where I’ve been now that I try to put it all into perspective. I think we’ve all been here … it’s just my first trip.
For me, the hits just keep coming. I feel like I can’t keep my head above water. I’m dry but drowning!
Jack’s suicide, my moms cardiac procedure (which turned out way better than expected) and, Boot’s cancer surgery. Everything seemed to hit at once. I’ve tried to be strong … to set an example…strong yet open. It hasn’t been easy. Everyone wants me back but I’m not sure I can get there. I’m not sure how much longer I can hold on to the little sanity I have but I’m trying.
Alison Krauss has several lines in her song “Paper Airplane” that hits home with me … one says …. “And love is hard to measure hidden in the rain. That’s why you’ll find me…Here all alone and still wondering why. Waiting inside for the cold to get colder…”
Another from the same song is ….“How many days should I smile with a frown?‘Cause you’re not around with the sun on your shoulders…”
Here’s a video of her singing the song if you’re not familiar with it or her music … I’m a HUGE fan.
Smile with a frown … sound familiar to any of ya?
Now, for me at least; it keeps piling on and I’m faced with even more challenges … more questions, more demons and battles to fight.
Today, I moved Jackson’s things out of dad’s house (that’s where he had been staying since his wife put him out and also where he decided to end his life). I smelt him as I moved every box. I smell him now. It’s was like an avalanche of emotion overtaking me once again.
It still seems like only yesterday to me but I know it’s not. I know this because yesterday, I found myself waiting once again for the phone to ring. I waited but he didn’t make that Easter morning call. I wanted to dial his number but couldn’t. Nothing is as it should be.
I don’t know how dad has done it. How he’s stayed there in the house. Past the birthdays and holidays. He’s got to be hurting as much as me and it’s killing me knowing it.
It’s even difficult for me to be around dad now. Him and Marci both look like and remind me so much of Jackson that it hurts. Worse than that … it suffocates me. I can’t explain it. Is this the life I’m left to live? Alienated from my own family? When will it end? Will it ever? Apparently not…
Thursday, Donna (my wife); will have a lump removed from behind her breast (under her arm). We wont know what it is until they get it out and see.
The procedure is weighing heavy on my mind. She’s staying strong for me and the girls while I’m quietly bleeding out. I’m not sure how much more I can take.
I feel like an old dilapidated barn. Old and worn yet just strong enough to leave you wondering how it’s still standing. I wish I knew. I wish I had it’s strength.
I want to leave this place … to go somewhere … anywhere but here yet I know I can’t. I know all roads will lead me back …. back to my struggles, my challenges, back to the things you cant run from. I’ll stay and fight.
I know there are many of you out there fighting the same battles. Several of you have reached out and spoken with me personally. I’ll remind you once again of the many resources available to us. Resources unique to “public safety”…. resources who understand who we are, where we came from and the challenges we face.
Behavioral Health issues … Grief, Stress, PTSD … issues unique and as personalized as those suffering through them. Issues all of us on the job have faced (most of us anyway). Here are some links for help. Links that will help you begin your journey … friends to guide you down the path… your start to the healing process.
“At an international conference on Friday, March 1, the NFFF (National Fallen Firefighters Foundation) introduced a new Behavioral Health Model that changes the way the fire service assists firefighters and others on the path to healing. It is based on the concept that no two firefighters will necessarily have the same reaction — not even to the same call”.
As for me, I’ve talked about not being able to eat or sleep. About not being able to keep anything down (on my stomach) and having an irritable bowel. I’ve shared being unfocused and distracted from rational thought, purpose or direction. What we don’t hear a lot about is where these things can lead when left untreated. Anger, the many forms of abuse … domestic, spousal and/or substance and even suicide .
There are many Brothers and Sisters out there battling Grief, Depression and/or PTSD that can’t see their way through or past their suffering. For many, suicide seems their only way “out”. Don’t stand idle and watch these Brothers and Sisters fall. Like many of you have done for me, YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE in their lives as well, in their healing process. Start talking about Behavioral Health in your Department (paid or volunteer, large or small). Use the links I’ve provided and look for more.
The recent events of my recovery are merely an expected bump in the road. I’ve known that a holiday, a random picture, odor, memory etc would bring back a flood of emotion. I’m still searching for my “new normal” and fighting my way back to where I want and need to be. I’ll get there. Thanks again for all the continued understanding and support. I’m still here. I know this is not the post you were hoping / looking for but it’s all I have right now.
It looks like I missed a good parade but I did make it downtown to raise a pint or two later that evening. I had a BLAST.
Most every bar / pub was full of Brother and Sister Firefighters. Salem, Roanoke County, Botetourt, Bedford and more …. the Valley’s Fire Service was represented well. I seen some really cool shirts and even a few kilts. I had some GREAT conversations and was able to see some Brothers I hadn’t in some time. It felt good to be “out” again.
A Brother from a nearby Department took the opportunity to ask for some of my thoughts concerning RIT / RIC (Rapid Intervention Teams / Crews). Apparently, this Brothers Department is putting together their first RIT “bag” and developing SOP’s / SOG’s concerning the formation and activation of RIC.
The hot topic quickly became how a RIC should be equipped…. what tools they should carry. More specifically, he wanted to know should the RIC have a charged hose line? My reply … NO.
There is a Department very close to me who’s SOP’s say that RIC must have a charged line but I disagree with that philosophy.
I reminded this Brother that the “R” in RIC stands for “Rapid”. Advancing a charged line will only slow the crew down.
An additional line(s) should be put into place in an effort to protect the downed firefighter(s) and the RIC but not by the RIC themselves. In addition, if there’s active fire; containment / extinguishment efforts should continue until all downed members are removed from the structure.
I explained that the tools etc they choose to carry should be dictated by the construction and type of structure involved in the fire (as well as by the number and skill level of members assigned to RIC). Yea … “skill level”. I don’t want a bunch of “yard breathers” or screw ups assigned as RIC. Think about it…. if you “go down”, who would you want coming to get you?
Anyway, it was a good conversation and I told him I’d put it out here to hopefully generate some additional comments. Leave us your thoughts / comments …. what tools do your RIC carry? Do they take a charged line?
I also recently received the two framed pictures shown with the stein. Another good friend, Brother and GREAT photographer, Nate Camfiordsent them to me. Nate actually took the photo of me and Rhett (left) while Baron Mosley took the shot of me and Hunter of TEAM HUNTER. THANKS for thinking of me Brothers and for the AWESOME gifts!
I’ve actually been trying to get out of the house more and more each day.
A few weeks back, Rhett made the trek over the mountain and we paid a visit to my local VFD … Roanoke County Fire and Rescue Station #4
Firefighter (and Brother) Joe Francisco (2nd from right) has invited me out to the station on several occasions. For one reason or another, I haven’t been able to make it. I’m glad we made / took the time.
What a GREAT crew! These Brothers and Sisters meet at least once a week for some type of training and to eat together. Yea …. they cook and eat together on their training / duty night. BEAUTIFUL!
THANKS for the invite, the station tour and the Brotherhood shared that night. Thanks also for your dedication and service …. keep up the good work!
Speaking of Rhett, my little buddy / sidekick has apparently “caught feelings”. There’s actually a lot of that going around these days.
It seems as if a lone firefighter has messed up a “good thing” here in The Noke.
For some time now, Golds Gym has allowed our Firefighters to workout and use their facilities free of charge…. an AWESOME gesture that many of our members took full advantage of.
Indications are that a single member went overboard and abused Gold’s generosity. Rumor has it that this member was bringing multiple family members (or non-firefighter friends etc) to the gym under the free access. This lone member cost several others and Rhett is pissed!
“I only hope that I don’t find out who messed it up for us until after I cool off. Whoever it was just cost me about $400 a year. Not only that, but they gave me and my department a black mark.”
For those of you who don’t know, Rhett has been on a strenuous workout and diet program for some time now. He’s bulking up for some kind of bikini contest or something that he entered with his wife (some details are in his post linked above).
It makes no sense to me. If I were him, instead of prancing around up on the stage in a speedo, flexing my muscles, I’d want to be out in the audience watching my wife.
I’d be sitting there with a beer when Becky comes out telling everyone “that’s my wife” and how I had to watch her try on 50 bikinis before she picked that one! LMAO
I also don’t understand all the fuss about Golds Gym. We have weights in the stations. Why can’t he just do like I do?
A few weeks on my routine and he could have a body like mine… yea … he could look this good too! LMAO
All kidding aside, Rhett has shown a level of focus, dedication and discipline that we all should have. He has not faltered or strayed (not even a single beer!).
His members were bragging to me just last Saturday how despite not eating with his members (being “in the kitchen”) due to his diet, he still cooks and runs the kitchen for them. He just has to prepare two meals vs one…. twice the work. That Brothers and Sisters is a good Officer (taking care of his members despite his needs / desires) … it’s Brotherhood and his members recognize and appreciate it.
He knows I’m just busting his balls a little with the jokes. I hope he knows how proud I am of his accomplishments and the example he’s setting for the rest of us (no matter the outcome of his bikini contest..LOL) … keep up the STRONG WORK Brother!
So there’s an attempt at an “old school” type of Ironfiremen.com post. Many of you have been missing and looking for em. Hope you enjoyed it … I’ll give ya more soon.
Someone called me that the other day …. a “survivor” (as in a suicide survivor). I’ve never thought of it that way but it actually makes sense.
It’s been 75 days since my brother Jack made the decision to end his life and I’m still struggling through the loss. I’m still going through the grieving process and fighting depression.
I don’t know if I’m a “survivor” but I am surviving ….. day by day.
It’s been a rough few months and the past couple of weeks haven’t made it any easier. Two of my family members have had major surgeries or procedures and the LODD (Line Of Duty Death) of Scott Morrison on March 3rd hit close to home. Scott was a good friend and huge supporter… professionally and personally.
That word … “survivor” keeps popping up in my head…. I guess there are a lot of us.
Scott didn’t survive his fatal heart attack but his friends and family will.
There were (are) so many left behind that have to find a way to keep living… to keep moving forward with their lives despite their search for the answer to their question “why?”.
Scott is survived by a wife (Jessica) and two children (Kaitlyn and Sean). He is also survived by his Knotts Island Fire Department family (he was their Chief) as well as by “The Brotherhood”, and friends and family from all across the Nation. Scott left many survivors.
Rhett had some links and more on Scott’s death over on Fire Critic.com. Click HERE to read that post.
I didn’t attend the funeral. I had planned on it and intended to but I couldn’t. I couldn’t attend another funeral, see another casket or loved ones hurting. I wasn’t strong enough … I wish I was and regret not going.
I was already on the road the weekend of Scott’s funeral. I was in Charlottesville, Va at the University of Virginia Medical Center.
That Friday, my Senior Firefighter; “Boots” underwent some major surgery.
He’s actually been fighting for some time now. I haven’t talked about it here out of respect for his privacy but he’s given me permission to mention it now.
Boots had cancer …. now he doesn’t.
Now, he is a “SURVIVOR”.
With 25 years on the job, Boots is a GREAT Firefighter. More importantly he’s an even better person! He’s the type of man who is always giving and never taking. Always putting others first … never thinking of himself.
He didn’t deserve this battle but he’s quietly fighting it.
I’ve always known Boots was a fighter. I’ve always known he was strong … I just never realized how strong. Pushing down hallways or making rooms is one thing …. this is something different. Something much, much different.
They first tried radiation and he continued to report for duty. Many days, he left the station for his treatment and then returned for the remainder of the tour.
The radiation didn’t work and surgery was the only remaining option. On Friday, he spent over 5 hours in surgery. His recovery will be much longer.
For our local Brothers and Sisters, he is unable to accept calls at this times and is respectfully asking for no visitors. You can send him messages through any of my accounts (click for my e-mail or Face Book) and I will see to their delivery. If you’d like to send a card or something you can bring it by or mail it to the station (in attention to “Boots”) and I’ll get it to him. Message me here if you need the address or feel free to give me a call.
Tonight’s evening news reminded me of more survivors …. our Brothers and Sisters, as well as the many residents; of Breezy Point (and other areas affected by Super Storm Sandy).
These Brothers and Sisters not only lost $20,000 in band equipment, many lost their homes and personal belongings.
It’s not stopping them. They continue to play and will be on 5th Avenue tomorrow for the famed New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade. They too are “survivors” and they’re doing it so that others may too (survive).
“It’s good emotionally for us to be out there and get a sense of normalcy,” said Williams. “We’re still here. We’re still doing what we’re doing and we will get past this terrible devastation.” (a quote from Band founder and Pipe Major Terrence Williams at nydailynews.com)
I guess the point I wanted to make tonight is that there are “survivors” all around us. Many that we may have never noticed or thought of as survivors but they are there. I’m one of them. Despite my lack of postings / social media presence, I am surviving…. maybe you are too.
Instead of writing, I’ve spent the time with family (of course you … my readers / followers are family as well). I apologize for for not keeping you posted etc and want to thank all of you for the messages, e-mails etc sent checking on me.
Although I’ll never be the “same” again, I will find my “New Normal” . I’ve put my “boots” back on and now, I just need to get my focus back (click the bold quotations for previous related posts). I’m getting there. Thanks for hanging with and helping me throughout this journey…. I couldn’t do it without you!
For those of us “on the job”, it’s a fairly common term.
We use it when talking about forcing entry into a structure or cutting a ventilation hole in the roof. Sometimes it’s even used for vehicle extrication (using the “jaws of life” to cut open a car).
More often than not, it’s a “Truckie” term ( a firefighter assigned to a Ladder truck) although sometimes, due to today’s staffing issues; an Engine Company can be assigned these tasks.
I’ve been thinking about “opening up” and the various meanings of the term a lot here lately …. as related to the job and emotionally.
Today, I’m working an extra shift. I’m paying back a Brother (Tim Cady) who worked a day for me last week.
I’m pulling the tour at Station #1 (aka “The Big Show”) on A-shift. I’m riding the seat of the Ladder.
It’s a brand new Pierce, 100′ tiller and with a price tag of 1.2 million, she’s a sweet ride.
I spent my younger years in the Department assigned to a Ladder ….. it was good, honest work. I’ve learned a lot since then. Truck work made me a good fireman. I’d like to think I’m older and wiser now but some will argue that.
I’ve been assigned to an Engine Company since I made Captain back in 2000. On the Engine, I’m thinking about size ups, water supply and getting to the fire.
Riding the Ladder, my thought process has to change just a bit. Today, I’m thinking about placement, forcible entry, search, rescue, ventilation, salvage, overhaul and even extrication.
“Opening up” is a priority for me and the A-Shift crew today. Opening up so so the Engine guys can get on the fire. Opening up to ventilate. Opening up to make our searches or opening up vehicles for extrication purposes.
The rig I’m riding is perfect for the job. It’s a 1.2 million dollar tool box. Everything we need to do our job … to “open up” is stored away nice and neat inside her.
It sounds difficult but it’s not. It’s all we know … it’s what we do. The other type of opening up however … the emotional opening up … that’s not so easy.
My absence from postings and social media has been pretty obvious lately. In a recent post, “Climbing Out”; I shared with you that I am just reaching the “depression” stage of my grief (or PTSD) and it’s been a difficult journey.
The honest answer is that I just haven’t felt like writing. I still can’t seem to focus or get motivated.
I had the chance to travel up to Long Island New York last week for their Fire, Rescue and EMS Mega Show.
I got to spend the weekend with my MN8 FoxFire family. I call them “family” because they are … it was an easy decision to go.
In some ways, it was. I was hoping it would open some doors for me and it did …. it also slammed a few in my face.
Most of you know that Rhett (The Fire Critic) and I very seldom travel without the other but he was unable to make this trip.
Not wanting to drive alone, I figured I’d ask my sister, Marci; to tag along.
If nothing else, we’d get to spend the weekend together and that’s never a bad thing (or it shouldn’t be anyway). She was excited! We both were.
What I didn’t figure on was how emotionally difficult it would be for me (and maybe her too).
She reminds me so much of Jackson. I’ve never looked at or thought of her that way.
She looks like him. She acts like him. Her mannerisms. How she uses her hands when she talks, how she crosses her legs. How she talks. Little things but everywhere I looked, every time I turned around, she reminded me of Jackson and it breaks my heart. My stomach stayed in knots … that “sick” feeling all over again … the hurt.
I may have the same affect on her. Everyone always said that we all looked exactly alike (dad, me, Jack and Marci). I’m sure Dad sees Jack in us and I know it hurts. So here’s another door I’ll (we’ll) have to figure out how to “open up”. I’ve got to learn to be around things (including people / family) that remind me of Jack. I need to figure out how to make these “reminders” trigger the good memories and not rekindle my pain and sorrow.
I’m not sure how to do it. How to open this door.
I don’t think it’s one that can be “forced”. I think I’ve been doing too much of that lately … “forcing” the issues.
Today is two months since Jack took his life. Everyone is still asking “how” I am … how I’m “doing”.
My reply has become standard … what everyone wants to hear. I’m “ok”. I’m “hanging in”. Making it “day by day” or “one step at a time”.
I’m not so sure that’s 100% true. Click that photo to the left. Do you ever hide your true emotions with replies like that? Are you telling those around you what they “want to hear” or how you’re truly feeling?
I have to admit again that “opening up” here on the blog (as difficult as it has been to do) has been therapeutic. I think it’s been my best therapy so far. I wasn’t so sure in the beginning.
“Opening up” for all my readers to see was a huge decision for me. I wasn’t sure I even could (or should for that matter). I’m glad I have.
While in Long Island (and many times before, via e-mails etc) several Brothers and Sisters approached me with not only sympathy and condolences, but with THANKS as well. They actually thanked me for sharing my story. I don’t think I was expecting that.
Some say it’s uplifting, a source of inspiration and that it’s even helped them through their own struggles with grief. Others say they miss the “old Willie” and that they are patiently awaiting the return of my “regular” postings while they understand and support my latest directions.
I met several GREAT Brothers and Sisters while in Long Island but one in particular will always stand out in my mind.
A true BROTHER and Captain Daniel Purcell of the Scarsdale Fire Department paid me a VERY special visit. He said he has been following my site (and Rhett’s) for a while now. When he seen I would be in Long Island, he had to come meet me.
We had a GREAT conversation. I wont share the details but it was very humbling. He brought gifts and even asked about the Buckaroo. I don’t think he was even interested in the show …. just delivering his message to me. THANKS AGAIN CAPT ! I hope you know how much that visit meant to me.
If it helps you to know, I’m not the only one talking about stress and “Behavioral Health” these days. “At an international conference on Friday, March 1, the NFFF introduced a new Behavioral Health Model that changes the way the fire service assists firefighters and others on the path to healing. It is based on the concept that no two firefighters will necessarily have the same reaction — not even to the same call”.
Learn more about what they’re doing / saying in the links below ….
I’m gonna try getting out again for a little while. I’ll be heading North to attend the Long Island Fire, Rescue and EMS Mega Showon Feb 23rd and 24th. I think it will make for the perfect “distraction” from everything else going on in my life.
I’ll be up there with my MN8 FoxFire family working the booth. I’m not sure what our booth “number” is but we’re never hard to find. We’re the guys with the “glow in the dark” stuff and there’s usually a huge crowd gathered around …. look for us and stop by to say hello if you’re at the show.
I feel like it’s going to be a good trip…. I know it’s a much needed one for me.
As far as the show / booth goes, we’re bringing some new products with us…. our newest actually.
MN8 FoxFire has started making 1 x 3 inch helmet “bars” (as opposed to tetrahedrons) for those of you not wearing a leather helmet (of course we’ll have plenty of our tetrahedrons available as well).
In true firefighter fashion, the bars have proven to be useful in other applications as well …. be sure to drop by and check em out…. I know you’ll love em!
We’ll have all of our other great products on hand as well …. Helmet Bands, Equipment bands, Grip Wrap, Epoxy, Tee-shirts, hats etc. and I’ll be on hand to give ya a personal demo. If you’re not familiar with our Products, visit our Web Site HEREor find and follow us on Face Book HERE .
We’re also going to have a special guest / visitor in the booth with us this weekend. My little sister, Marci; is gonna make the ride up with me !
EASY fellas…. EASY. Like I said … she’s my SISTER.
I’m not gonna call her a “booth babe” but she will be hanging out at the show with us. Be sure to to say hello and give her a chance to tell ya how awesome she thinks our product and the entire MN8 FoxFire team is.
We’ll be leaving out first thing in the morning (Thursday) and arriving in Long Island sometime late evening.
Our travel route will take us straight up I-81 from Roanoke to I-78 to I95 and the Lincoln Tunnel (most likely). If you’re on the way and wouldn’t mind a visit, just let me know … we LOVE stopping by and visiting Firehouses when we travel (who knows, you may even make the pages of Ironfiremen.com). Marci and I both will be checking and updating Face Book as we travel so hit us up if you want us to drop by and / or meet up.
We’ll be staying at the Sheratonon Motor Parkway in Hauppauge, Long Island. We’ll be looking for something to “get into” so if you’re close by or have any good suggestions, let us know. I know we’ll head into the City on Friday sometime (or maybe just one evening) but we’re flexable.
I think this trip will be just what I need to get back in the swing of things.
It’s gonna feel good to be back in New York, in my kilt and working. I’m excited! Hell, just being able to wear my kilt will make the trip worth while (of course I’ll wear my kilt ANYWHERE).
Wearing it around the farm draws too much attention (it distracts the cows …LOL). I had the chance to slide back into it down in Florida for 2013 Fire / Rescue East but I really wasn’t “there” yet. This trip feels more “normal” … like it should be.
The only thing that will be missing on this trip will be my “little buddy” …. the “Buckaroo #2″ … aka Rhett Fleitz (The Fire Critic). Yea …. once again, Rhett will be unable to make the trip. He’s afraid the hotels gym wont meet his needs / specs.
I’ve nicknamed him “WTA” (While Tony Atlas).
You see, Rhett’s been on a STRICT diet and workout program lately …. he’s “bulking up”.
He’s been drinking all the “muscle juice” he can find. Eating egg whites laid by a hen with only 3 tail feathers who sits on her nest facing east.
For lunch, the leaf of lettuce in his salads was grown on a glacier at the base of Mount Everest.
For dinner, a single green bean, uncooked and grown in only the purest of soils.
For desert, he can down a 12 pack of creamy, delicious probiotic Activia yogurt faster than the cookie monster can eat a sleeve of Chips Ahoy. Of course he can “snack” on protein bars and such as long as he just eats the cardboard wrapper they’re contained in.
You see, Rhett in preparing to enter his 1st bikini contest …. no kidding ! A BIKINI CONTEST!
His wife Becky has been training for over a year now to participate in her first fitness / figure / bikini contest. She doesn’t need the training … she’s already HOT (blind … but HOT ..LOL). Well, Rhett decided he’d support her by being be her side in her endeavor … as in RIGHT by her side.
In all seriousness, Rhett’s been VERY disciplined in sticking to his diet / workout.
He’s sticking to it and it’s paying off …. HE LOOKS GREAT (although still not as good as Becky).
What he doesn’t realize is that like everything else in his life, he STILL wont surpass Dave Statter!
As hard as Rhett is trying, Dave does double the effort by accident. It just come natural to him and once again, “Fire Boy” is left playing “catch up”.
LMAO …. all kidding aside, Rhett has some family obligations keeping him from making this trip. We have PLENTY more scheduled for 2013 so it wont be long before we’re back on the road, together again.
So, I’ll try to keep ya posted as much as possible throughout the weekend. Once again, if you’re on our route or will be attending the show, be sure to let me know so we can meet up. Until I get back to ya ….
I need several “do overs” actually. Unfortunately, I know that I can’t have a second chance at many of the events in my life over the past few months.
I’d give anything to be able to go back and save my brother from the dark place he found himself in on December 30, 2012. A place so dark it enabled him to make the decisions he made … the decision to take his own life. Even though it’s too late for me to change those circumstances, it’s not too late for me to bring something positive from this tragedy.
I’ve learned so much about emotional / mental health and wellness since Jack’s suicide. I’ve learned first hand what PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is and how it affects us. I’ve learned about grief and it’s various stages. I’ve learned that although their are many similarities in how it affects us all, it’s also (and often) very much so different for those of us “on the job” (Fire, Rescue and Police).
I’ve learned that “talking” about it helps. I’ve learned that showing and sharing emotion (as raw as it may be) is also not just “ok” but can also be therapeutic. I’ve learned that “we” , as a Fire Service; need to come to know and understand that. We NEED more education on these types of issues … our bosses do too. We need to understand that our “role model” firefighter is also HUMAN.
I’ve learned that there are some GREAT resources out there for us to “reach out” and talk to. “Sucking it up” and getting back to work is not acceptable anymore … not in my book. It shouldn’t be in yours either. I’m going to work to bring a lot of this to light. If you continue to follow the site, you’re gonna see and read a LOT about our emotional / mental health and well being…. I hope to decide to stay with me…. you deserve to know what I’m learning. YOU’RE WORTH IT…. everyone of ya.
For now, with that said; if you find yourself wanting or needing to talk to someone who will truly understand what it is you’re going through or feeling, I’ll add a few of the links I’ve been using in recent posts. Check them out and USE THEM….. they HELP.
There’s another “do over” however that I may can arrange (if they’ll allow me). You guys may remember that back on January 26th, I was invited to speak at the Lexington Fire Department’s (Va) Annual Awards Dinner and Banquet. Just the invite was a HUGE honor!
I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to. I was still “lost” in my grief and unable to focus on the simplest of tasks.
Lexington’s Chief, Ty Dickerson; is not only a close and personal friend, he’s also a great mentor and leader.
Ty told me to come anyway (if I could … to speak or not). He said that if I felt like it and could, to attend so at least he could hug me again and assure me that I (and my family) were not alone (he also wanted to make sure that I was eating). If I couldn’t attend, he and his members fully understood. THAT in itself speaks VOLUMES about Chief Dickerson and the Brothers and Sisters of the Lexington Fire Department.
I had prepared a couple speeches. I arrived empty handed …. my thoughts and words seemed to “scattered”. I decided to speak, but would do it from the heart. That usually works out good for us but this time, I’m not even sure what i said.
There was so much I could have and wanted to say but it just wasn’t the “right” occasion. This was their (The Lexington Fire Department’s) first banquet as a “combined” Department and it should have been memorable.
I decided to speak about “Brotherhood” and how alive it is within their Department. So many times we hear Brothers and Sisters complaining of how “the Brotherhood” is dead in the Fire Service today but I can tell you for certain IT’S NOT.
I had just been witness to a HUGE act of Brotherhood from all across the world. Good friend and Brother Firefighter Nate Camiford. After my post “A Firefighter’s Boots”, Nate started a campaign where hundreds of Brothers and Sisters from all over the world sent me pictures of their “boots” in support of me getting back into mine. It was very humbling to say the least … I was honored.
Often times, Department’s such as Lexington just need a little “outside” reminder of how the Brotherhood is alive and well within their own Department. Like with “the boots” I had witnessed the Brotherhood at work within the Lexington Fire Department many times and wanted to share my experience with them. Here’s what I should have said…..
Usually, I don’t speak alone. Most of you know that Rhett Fleitz (The Fire Critic) and I are very seldom seen apart. We are more than a “team” … more than “partners” … more than Brothers even. I can’t explain it …. it is what it is …. you don’t get one of us without the other (most times).
Whenever Rhett and I speak about Brotherhood, we always include the values which we believe make it up …. TRADITION, PRIDE,HONOR and RESPECT.
The Lexington Fire Department (and City) has a rich history full of tradition. The banquet that night was just another example. Many new traditions were started that night as well as in some of the awards and recognition’s made. They will see many new traditions made and kept as they move forward with their new “combination” Department.
What a HUGE undertaking that in itself is. Moving from an all volunteer Department to a Combination (career and volunteer). It shows care and a concern for their community and a PRIDE in being able to overcome obstacles. Pride in being able to serve their community … to do the job we signed up to do. It takes a special group of people to make that model work. It takes strong leadership and members working together towards a common goal. It takes patience and understanding to say the least … give and take. These Brothers and Sisters are setting the standard.
I wanted to tell them about the picture I had (and shared with them at the banquet). A picture of my dad as a member of the Lexington Volunteer Fire Department from back in the late 60′s. A picture of their entire Department standing in front of their 59 Mack Fire Engine. I wanted to explain how that picture exemplifies PRIDE for a Department … for THEIR Department.
I wanted to explain how their donating that truck to the Kazim Shriners shows, HONOR and RESPECT. I wanted to explain how that was evident to me (and the members of the Melrose Misfits) when we had the honor and privilege of helping to restore some of the equipment on that truck. Seeing the name “Lexington Fire Department” spoke volumes to my members.
I seen more examples when one of their members invited me down for a birthday party. Actually, Cassie Potter (wife of Chris Potter) invited me down for a “surprise” party for Chris. She explained how he was a loyal follower of the site and how excited he’d be to actually get to meet and spend some time with me. I was again humbled and honored.
I made the party and many new friends in Lexington. The best part was getting a personal tour of their house that night. It’s a new station and one that I hadn’t been in before (I remembered the old one downtown as a kid).
You could see the PRIDE in the eyes of their members as they showed me around. I seen it on the floors …. in the corners. NO DIRT. The equipment, station and members were IN ORDER and ready to roll. I look for that … the little things. They offered me a cup of coffee right off …. I felt at home.
They showed me their history and again I was flooded with a sense of Pride, Honor, Tradition and Respect. A full trophy case. Banners and ribbons. Wooden ladders. Hand pulled ladder trucks! I hope the Brothers and Sisters of Lexington know just how “rich” they are…. I do.
Rhett and I witnessed even more of the Brotherhood at work through the Lexington Fire Department while attending the 2012 National Fallen Firefighter’s Memorial Weekend.
There, we meet a member of the Lexington Fire Department (Michelle) who was volunteering her time to serve as an “escort” for one of the families of our fallen. There is no batter way to HONOR our fallen than to take care of their survivors. Talk about RESPECT and PRIDE!
I could go on and on. I should have back on the 26th. The City Manager, Sheriff and many other dignitaries were present and I hope they know what a valued asset they have in the Lexington Fire Department, it’s Chief and members.
I say I need a “do over” because I think it was an important message (although one that I didn’t get across). They need to hear it …. they have EARNED and deserve to hear it. The Brotherhood is alive and well in Lexington and it’s all because of their members. They have, are and will continue to make an impact / difference. Maybe Ty can find a spot to bring me back ( along with Rhett) so we (I) can deliver the message in person.
Sorry for the lack in postings …. obviously, I’m still working on getting to my “new normal”. Thanks once again for all the messages and support …. I couldn’t have made it without you all!
I’ve been attempting another (this) post for several days now. I’ve written several and sent em to the recycle bin instead of posting. I didn’t want to seem (or come across) as angry and I felt like they did. So, like everything else here lately, I’ll try it again. My emotions lately are across the board.
Despite the overwhelming support I received following my last post (“A Firefighter’s Boots”), I was NOT able to return to duty and put mine (my boots) back on. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to … I DID … more than anything, and you folks were a HUGE part of the reason why.
The comments, e-mails, Face Book messages and phone calls were all nothing short of amazing! Then a good friend and brother Firefighter, Nate Camfiord; posted a picture of some bunker boots with a simple message … “for a friend”. Talk about “Honor”, “Pride” and “Respect” … Nate reeks of it.
He (Nate) then called Rhett and told him what he had posted and why. The two got their heads together and the next thing you know, hundreds of pictures of “Firefighter’s boots” were being posted and sent in! They came from EVERYWHERE…. it was an AWESOME display of support! I was humbled and brought to tears.
Some of the pictures had messages attached. Each touched me. Some were heart breaking yet healing at the same time. All were emotional, heart felt, honest and motivational. They all said, in one way or another; for me to put my boots back on and that each of you were not only willing to, but “THERE” to help me with the “fit”.
I had no idea! I knew the Brotherhood existed, I just didn’t know it did to this extent. I also figured out that all of you were grieving “for” and “with” me as well. I know that you all felt my pain…. I had hoped to spare ya from it. That was selfish of me.
I later learned that part of the healing process needed to be a sharing of that pain and grief and, that I have a huge family to do that with. We all do the same thing … we help others, even at our own sacrifice. You wanted to help me. To be beside me. To comfort me and share in my grief. My being there would allow us all to move forward … to begin the healing process.
I wanted back in those boots this past Sunday. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out but I was going to put them on. I wanted back in them for me and for you. I needed it…. we all did.
Obviously, it didn’t happen. I did however get by the station (and Station #5) for a visit that morning … I was glad I did. The circumstances surrounding why I didn’t work were beyond my control and I hope you folks weren’t disappointed. I hope I didn’t let you down.
We only get a couple days “funeral leave” in our system (one of which has to be the day of Last Rites) so I’ve had to take several days of “sick leave” since Jack’s death. I’m on the “old leave plan” so it’s no big deal for me. It doesn’t affect my Vacation or Holidays, I have plenty of it and, it will renew in July. I’ve earned it.
The problem I encountered was in our S.O.P’s (Standard Operating Procedures). Since I have taken more than 3 consecutive days “sick”, I need a doctor’s note before I can return to duty. One of our Deputy Chiefs reminded me of the policy when he called to “check on me” Friday evening and it’s a good thing he did (remind me that is). Can you imagine the turmoil it would have caused if I had shown up for duty without a permission slip doctors note?
It may have actually been for the best… I may have tried to come back too fast / soon. I’ve had a difficult week (emotional wise) and think that the couple extra days off couldn’t have hurt. They helped and the Chief of Department has told me to take all the time I need. I’ll get there…. I know it. With a support group like you, how could I not?
I’ll get a doctor’s note, even if I have to get Dr. Seuss himself to write one (he is a close personal friend and the only Doctor I REALLY trust you know…lol). My plan now is to return to duty on Tuesday the 29th or Thursday the 31st. Meanwhile, I’m going to start easing my way back to normal … my “new normal” anyway.
Zach Green and my MN8 FoxFire family will be in Daytona Beach Fla this week for the 2013 Fire-Rescue East convention … I’m going with them. Actually, I’m going to meet them there. Dad will be there too. They will be in booth #720 …. stop by and say hello.
A change of scenery, getting away (even if just for a couple of days) may be just what I need. It will also be a good opportunity to “reconnect”. I’ll be surrounded by firefighters, friends and family. It will be like easing back into the firehouse, only in a convention type setting.
It’s going to be difficult for me. I remain very emotional and it shows … that’s ok. I’m gonna cry in front of a lot of people this weekend. That’s ok too. I’ve learned that over these past 3 weeks. We’re HUMAN … I’m human. It’s what actually makes us good firemen. I’m going to start talking and “sharing” a lot… about opening up…. about talking (yea… to real live, other people). Sharing our stories, our feelings, our emotions. I’m going to tell ya how it’s ok to use E.A.P (Employee Assistance Programs), counselors and psychologists. IT WORKED FOR ME. If I can do it, anyone can.
I’m not “healed”. I’m not “over it” and I’m not “ok” BUT … I know that I will be. I know that I’ll learn to deal with and live with this pain… with this part of me that’s now missing.
If you’re in or going to be in Daytona for the show, look me up … I could use the company. Leave a comment here, message me on Face Book, hit up Rhett (Fire Critic) or just stop by booth #720 … Zach and Kelly will know where to find me. Heck, I may even put my boots back on while down there and give ya a free demo of FoxFire.
I’ll check back in from sunny Daytona (as soon as I stop and buy a new speedo). I just wanted to let you know (warn ya) that I’m on my way. THANKS AGAIN for all of and the continued SUPPORT…. I LOVE YOU GUYS!
Our boots are one of the seemingly simplest tools we have as firefighters yet they each have a story to tell.
Maybe you have to be a firefighter to understand but for most of us on the job, we can look at a brother or sisters boots (and how they wear them) and learn so much about the person wearing them.
Shined or scuffed. Tall or short. Laces or zippers. Station wear or structural. By the rig or inside the cab. Bunkers over or separated from our pants. By the bed at night or out in the bay. We depend on our boots… they get us to the job and have been there for every one … good and bad.
I’ve been in a dark place following my brother’s death two weeks ago and my boots continue to consume my thoughts. You can tell by just the few examples I gave above that we have many options (or choices) when it comes to our boots. One of the biggest however is the one I didn’t mention and the same one I’m facing now … knowing when (and how) to put them back on or to just hang them up.
I’ve been open and emotional here on the site before but not to the extent that I was in my previous post (or at least I don’t think so). The response was very positive and to be honest, it was also very therapeutic for me so I think I’ll try it again.
I’ve never been in this place (or any like it) before and I don’t like it. I can’t figure it out or “fix it” quickly and it’s not a position I’m used to or comfortable with. I’m still dazed and feel lost. I can’t sleep, keep food down and even find it difficult to draw a full breath. I get out of bed every day feeling as if I’ve been kicked in the gut. I’ve walked a million miles these past two weeks searching for answers or some sort of closure or peace but even these boots can’t get me far enough from the pain for me to function as I should.
Some of my friends are telling me to get back to work … get back to a “routine” and whats “normal”. I don’t know if I’m ready for that yet or if I’ll ever be. It used to be that I had a farming and firehouse life. Last week, I sold all my cattle and I haven’t been to the firehouse since Jack’s death. For the first time in my career, I’m nervous scared to go to work. I’m scared of what I’ll have to face and question my courage or ability to push through it.
I worry about facing the guys. I know this sounds “petty” but it bothers me. What will I say to Phil or Lynn when I walk in the door? What will they say to me? I know that right now, I’d break down in tears and I don’t want to do that … not at the station. Maybe they will break down? I don’t want that either.
They have to be wondering what to say to me. What can they say? Nothing they come up with will make it any easier for me (although appreciated). I’ll see their pain in knowing that I’m still hurting. I do and will know that they want to and are willing to share in that pain but still cant stand the thought of placing that burden on them.
Then, the seven o’clock bell will hit and the other members will emerge from the bunk room and we’ll have to relive the situation all over again. The event will unfold time and time again throughout the day as we converge with other companies. Maybe there wont be any conversation … just that awkward silence because nobody knows what to say.
I’ll be the guy who stops all conversation by simply entering the room. My presence will affect our members, their mental status and maybe even their ability to perform their duties because of it. I don’t want to be “that guy” either.
I also worry about the incidents that I’ll respond to and if I’ll be able to function after arriving. I’ve NEVER doubted my ability to do the job … until now. I’m not sure how I’ll react on certain types of incidents. More specifically, I worry about running suicides, ”Code Blues” (CPR), and any other type of fatality we may encounter. What if I “break down” while on the scene? In someone’s home… in front of their family. We are there to assist with their crisis, not bring more into it.
I’ve seen death throughout my career … a lot of it. I’ve seen it from new borns to elderly and from many mechanisms. As firefighters, we’ve all seen things that nobody should have to. I know that there is no “illusion” to death. It’s (their) face(s) has continued to visit (haunt) me over the years. I’ve always been able to move it “somewhere” in the back of my mind, to “file it away” and move forward … even when they hit “close to home”. This is different.
When our girls were home, Donna; (my wife) always knew when I had run an incident involving a child. We’ve never talked about them but she’d get a call at whatever time in the late night / early morning. I’d have her go to our girls bedroom, look in on them and tell me they were ok. I’d have her do it while I was on the phone. I heard it, I knew that they were ok and that I could move on through the rest of the tour. This time, there’s nobody to call and it’s not ok.
Of everything I’ve experienced and witnessed throughout my life and career, NOTHING can compare to what I had to do on December 30th. This was more than “close to home” … this WAS HOME. We were at Dad’s house and that was Jackson laying in front of me. JACKSON! I don’t want to see anymore.
Maybe my “file cabinet” is full. Maybe this file is simply too big to fit inside. Either way, I’m having trouble putting this one away. Maybe I don’t want to. How can I put Jack into “that” file cabinet anyway? Into “that” place in my mind? I know I’ve got to figure it out because I can’t keep going on like this. I need and want for my mind to slow down. For me to be able to focus and move forward.
I know that part of the reason that I’m in the condition I am is because I haven’t found what I’m looking for yet. What I’m “searching” for. I know what it is … it’s very specific and I’m not sure it will happen. I want it to … I need it to. I’m not ready to share it with all of you yet but I know that if I find it … if I get this answer, I can go on.
I’ll say here that I’ve had a ton of support (my entire family has). The e-mails, comments etc have been heart felt and therapeutic in themselves. THANK YOU … THANK YOU …THANK YOU! I’ve even had several therapists and professional counselors reach out…. everyday they’ve helped me. I’ll include some links at the bottom once again. If you haven’t already … CHECK THEM OUT. When you go to the Sweeneyalliance, be sure to sign up for their newsletter “Grieving Behind the Badge” .
So, once again; writing this has helped and I’m thankful to have this outlet. My Chief (and Department) has been VERY understanding and supportive. He’s told me to take as much time as I need knowing that neither of us could know how long that may be. Well, after writing this; I think it’s time to try. I think I’ll return to duty on Sunday and see if I can get back into my boots. Get back into my boots and “do work”. To see if I can still make a difference … hopefully, a positive one.
I’m going to give this a try with no promises on the outcome so bare with me.
It’s been just over two weeks since I lost my brother (Jackson) and I’m still struggling. His Birthday would have been on the 10th. In the last post I made, I said his death was “unexpected to say the least” but it was much more than that … it was devastating.
What I didn’t tell you was that Jack took his own life… he committed suicide. He killed himself and took a huge part of me with him.
He left me with guilt, anger, remorse, regret and more questions than I’ll ever know the answer to. My days and nights are now consumed with a search for those answers and I feel as if I’m wondering aimlessly in some far away land…. I have been and remain LOST.
I’m going to share this story (or as much as I can and I know I’ll ramble) for a couple of reasons. First, I think (and hope) there are some lessons here for us all. The second is more selfish in that I think it may be therapeutic for me. It’s difficult for me to “talk” about these things, so I don’t. It’s much easier to type them here. I need to get it out… or at least some of it. I may not even hit the “publish” button but if I do, maybe this will help me find what or who I’m searching for. Maybe it will help me find my “new normal”.
Part of my anger is that of all the total strangers I’ve helped over my career, I couldn’t (didn’t) help my own brother. Someone so close. My flesh and blood. Someone I seen or spoke to almost every day. Someone I loved more than he ever knew. How could I not help him??? He was right there! I’m supposed to be good at it … finding and helping others.
Jackson’s life was a struggle from early childhood and I think he looked at it as a failure (or at least a disappointment). He never really “held” a steady job. He didn’t have money in the bank, a lavish home or a fancy car. He struggled day by day to make ends meet and the battle took an early toll on his mind and body. I never knew what his actual “goal” in life was.
I think he thought that dad and I (as well as others) held some sort of expectations for him that he was never able to (or couldn’t) meet. He couldn’t have been more wrong. Although i would have loved to see Jackson prosper (and even become a fireman), what I wanted more than ever was for him to simply NOT have to struggle in life. I wanted him to realize what he DID have … to be happy with his accomplishments and achievements. He had many and I wish I had told him my feelings.
Jackson had lost some ground again here recently. It seemed as if every time he would make a step forward, something would push him 3 more back. His wife kicked him out of their home a few months ago and he was forced to move in with dad at the age of nearly 42. I wont pass judgement or cast blame on his wife … Jackson was fighting many demons. I wish they could have worked through them.
Their separation meant that he would have to face his first Christmas alone. Alone in that he would not get to spend it with his children. He wouldn’t get to shake em out of bed to see if Santa had arrived (even though they are now teen aged). He wouldn’t be there to see them walk into the living room on Christmas morning. To see them open the packages he’d broken his back to get knowing it would be worth the smile on their faces. That was one of our “good” childhood memories and a tradition we’ve both carried throughout our adult lives.
I spoke to him several times on Christmas. I “spoke” to him but we didn’t “talk”…. not like we always have. We had argued in the days before and both of us are hard headed…. neither wanting to admit that the other was right. I didn’t tell him I loved him that morning … I wont get a second chance.
There are so many “what if’s”. So many I “should have” and “could have” dones. Looking back, I seen it. I knew he was hurting. I knew he was hurting but … he was my brother … he was dad’s son… he was a Wines…. he was JACK WINES and we are a firefighting family! This was not our first rodeo.
Our dysfunctional lives had become somewhat like a “bread and butter” fire…. “routine” so to speak (or so we thought). He’d seen troubles (we all had … Jackson, more than his fair share). He knew rough roads and had weathered them all… it’s what we did. I was sure that he was tough enough to take it and move on so there was no need to talk about it. Somewhere over the years, I had forgotten what a fragile soul he was. I had forgotten how to talk to and comfort my little brother. I think the little fella was just tired of fighting and he gave up.
When and where did I become so unaware of those closest to me? Where did I go so wrong? When did I pull that curtain or build that facade? How did I not see it?
Picture my dad as the Chief and me the Captain of our family. Our careers taught us to absorb the things we’ve seen, done and experienced and not talk about or dwell on it…. we passed that on to Jackson. It was a “tough love” if you will. Had we have only known ( well … I knew … I just couldn’t “see it”).
What examples are we as firefighters (Officers or not) setting today (on and off the job)? Keep in mind that being a firefighter also means being human … men and women. We should lead by and set the example…. after all, we are the people everyone else looks to for help.
My life has revolved around “the job”. It’s what I was taught and all I’ve known. A lot of times (most times actually), my Fire Department family came first because my home family “understood”. They were or should have been as strong and tough as me (or so I thought). They (the home family), could and would “do without” certain things knowing that I was somewhere else because that’s where I thought I was needed most. Today I know I’m not near as smart or tough as I thought I was and that I was more often than not in the wrong place. I wasn’t the son, husband, father or brother I should have been and again, I wont get a second chance.
Knock down those walls …. destroy the facades. Stop being (or trying to be) that tough burly fireman and start showing that we too are human. Open up to your members … to you families. Encourage them to open up to you as well. It’s ok to share and to show feelings and emotions…. the job overwhelms us with them and we can only store so much.
I’ve cried a river of tears these past two weeks. Rhett and Kevin have been by my side and seen a part of me that not many others have. In one of our conversations, I told Rhett that I was worried about seeing visitors. Every time someone came by or even called, I couldn’t help but break down. If I made it to the greeting, I would see the tears in their eyes or they would start to cry and it sat me off. I didn’t want the boys to see me like that.
Of course Rhett asked all the right questions…. to see me like what? HUMAN? To see that I had emotion? That I felt pain? We share the good times, why can’t we share the bad? Help them help you get through this he said. How can we be Brothers and Sisters if we never let each other “in”?
They were crying because they seen or felt my pain. It hurt them to see or know that (and how much) I was hurting. It’s very humbling and I hope I grow worthy. I wanted to hide or shield them from it … from my pain and theirs. As a Captain, and brother; it’s my duty to shield them from harm … to protect them.
They were going to feel my pain, going to cry and suffer with and for me (as well as my family) either alone or in my embrace. If they loved and cared about me THAT much (so much that they wanted to SHARE in my pain and suffering), why would I let them go through it alone? Why would I go it alone knowing that they were there to help carry the load? I wish I could have been there for Jackson and vow, that if ever possible; to never be out of place again. We’ve taken many visitors and cried many a tear together since that day. I’m thankful for each.
Like me, many of you may not be good at it (opening up, sharing, talking) but we do have resources to help us along. I have Rhett, Kevin, Dave, the Brotherhood and many more close and personal friends. I’ll include some links to the more “formal” ones at the bottom of the post but just understand that we have to stop coming home (or reporting for duty) so “hardened” that we’re blind to the issues right under our own roof. How can we continue to help those whom we are sworn to protect and serve when we can’t help ourselves or our own?
As for me, I will never be the same but know that I must find a “new normal” and continue moving forward…. I can and will.
I’ll continue more on this post in the next day or so but, until I do; I’d like to once again THANK everyone who reached out with thought, prayer, e-mails, comments, visits, flowers etc over these past two weeks. I will start working on “thank you” cards tomorrow. Just know that each of you were heard, felt and appreciated … you’re why I’m able to post this today and for that, I’m eternally grateful.
If ANY of you ever need someone to talk to …. an ear … some direction … whatever, I may not be the best but I’m always available. Don’t fall into the traps I did.
You, or the person you’re thinking of may NOT be “alright”. You or they my NOT be able to handle the situation and it MAY be worse than you thought. REACH OUT before it’s too late …. open up and share with those you love (on and off the job). We have options. Don’t settle for, expect or make those we love come looking for help … GREET THEM WITH IT.