Category Archives: Personal

On Silence

It’s been a while. The reasons are many. One of the big ones is silence.

We struggle from time to time. Life, circumstances, what have you. Things aren’t always great. I’ve had a pretty rough last year or so dealing with family issues, having a boot, and then an on-the-job injury. I’m currently on “light duty” awaiting clearance to get back with my crew. Light duty sure is motivating for healing, but it’s also brought some self-reflection. If you know me well, you know I’m not great at that.

I wanted to take a few seconds out to talk about a touchy subject. At the risk of sounding dramatic, this career has an effect on us. We see mankind at it’s worst. Day in and day out we see the terrible things that happen to people and the things that people do to each other. There is a culture of bravado in public safety. The “I’m fine” sort of mentality. I think some of that comes from not wanting to appear weak to co-workers, but part of it comes from not wanting to burden others with our problems. For me another part of it is denial. Coming off of a dead baby call or a gory extrication, we want to brush it off and go about our duty, so that’s what we do. There is always a small piece of that situation that sticks with you. Pulling away from the scene we are praying for those families and immediately begin the coping process. Whether it’s talking it out with the crew, or making jokes, we all have our ways. When everything is said and done, most of the time we go about our shift and go home to our families. With that being said, those moments do stay with you. Sometimes those coping mechanisms don’t quite cover the emotions. I realize it’s not very PC to say in the circles I run in, but we’re not invulnerable and we aren’t robots. Combine that with the fact that we have our own complications and hurdles and that can feel overwhelming sometimes. I think many of us feel that way from time to time.

One of the things that I love about my crew is that I can go to them with those things. We can talk through the emotions that come with a call and process what we’re feeling. The same applies for personal issues. Sure we kid around and prank one another, but each one of those men has been a pillar of support for me at various times. I’m eternally grateful for them. I can discuss things with them that I wouldn’t with my wife, and know that they won’t judge me for being human. Along with these men, I have a few brothers in my church that I can speak candidly with.

As I’ve been laid up on light duty, I’ve had a very hard time with identity and worth. I know who I am in Christ, but when I see that roster and I’m not on it, I forget that my identity isn’t in my work. My life still has meaning apart from jumping off that rig and saving the day. These thoughts just don’t spring to mind as I’m in full swing of my personal pity party. Do I grab the word for some affirmation? No, I don’t. More ofthen than not, I find another coping mechanism, and they aren’t all healthy. All of my brothers from the station and from the church have come along side me. Although I haven’t really expressed it to them directly, they have eached helped me along a very difficult time and I’m eternally grateful. I’m also grateful for my wife. She doesn’t know I know, but I’m 100% sure she made some calls.

I guess what I’m getting at is this: we all struggle from time to time. We’re human. Sometimes it can feel like drowning. Take a look at your brothers and sisters objectively. Does something seem off? Are they putting on a mask of “I’m fine?” Something as simple as “hey, do you want to talk?” Can make a world of difference to someone that is really struggling.

If you’re one of those people that’s drowning: You truly are not alone. Pull someone aside. If you can’t, there are many of us internet strangers and brothers in the service that would lend you an ear. Drop me a line if you’re so inclined. Check out The Code Green campaign. Feelings are ok, and sometimes it’s hard to know what to do with them.

Share

My First Interior Fire (a.k.a. Happy Birthday To Me)

Yesterday was the third shift of my current tour. It was also my 38th birthday. I’m usually pretty quiet about my birthday (being an introvert and all). However, my Captain, and one of the Rescue guys at my station discovered it was my birthday. Rescue Steve and Rescue Frank bought me a Chocolate Tres Leches cake (which was amazing and a very pleasant surprise! (Thanks Guys!))

Continue reading My First Interior Fire (a.k.a. Happy Birthday To Me)

Share

Academy graduation day

TFD_15-2_Graduation-12_11_2015-232

Graduation day. The day I had been working towards for 21 arduous weeks.

The evening before graduation was “family night,” an evening which we got to display our skills for our loved ones. The whole proceeding felt like a dream. My teammates and I came into the academy later than usual that day to begin the setup for the evening’s evolutions. We were allowed to wear our “official” blue shirts! I was assigned to the “vehicle extrication” demo. We made a couple of cuts ahead of time so we could keep the demo time low as there were many to get to. As we cleaned up our tools in preparation for the arrival of the crowds I began to feel excited and like it was really almost time to go.

As the families and friends began to trickle in, the sun started to set, bathing the entire drill ground in a reddish glow. It was beautiful and only added to the moment.  As darkness settled, we marched in as a class, singing a “jodie”. We demonstrated our abilities to our families to show what we had been doing while we were away from them for so long. For me, it was a very proud moment. God had carried me all the way to the finish line!

At the end of the evening, we went up onto the tower and they announced each person and we stepped up to the railing and announced “FIREFIGHTER YourNameHere” and rang the giant bell. It was very final and each ring of the bell vibrated my chest with pride. So much so that I thought it would burst!

The next morning I dressed in my blue shirt and admired my cleaned, pressed, uniform that was adorned with official patches. In excitement we headed to the venue of the ceremony. As we arrived, we all milled around restlessly, ready for the ceremony to begin. We did a practice walk-through and continued to wait.

As the graduation began, we were lead in by the pipe and drum band. At the sound of the bagpipes I immediately began to get choked up. I could not believe the day was finally here. We progressed through the auditorium past what seemed like a thousand eyes and lenses, brimming with tears and pride. They all matched my own. As I neared the front of the hall, I saw my beautiful wife, kids, friends, and my parents. We had made it.

As we took the stage, we pledged allegiance to the flag and heard the national anthem sung. My head was spinning with the raw emotion. We heard speeches from the brilliant Training Chief, the Chief of the department, our super boot, and our keynote speaker. All the while, it was mostly a blur to me as I kept trying not to look at my wife or my mother, lest I get as choked up as they were.

We were issued our badges and swore our oaths. I meant every word of it. With each word, I felt the weight of the past 21 weeks lifting off of me. God had carried me across the finish line!!

As my wife pinned that badge to my chest, the tears came. I choked them back but the emotion welling up in me was too much. We held each other for so long, assuring each other that by the grace of the Almighty, it was over and life was now going to be very different.

Looking back on the days leading up to (and including) graduation, it was a huge blur. A warm glow of triumph that lasted for quite a few days. The battle was over. I had made it. God had carried me every day. Just like He promised He would!

Share

My First Tour

I’ve talked with quite a few firefighters about their careers. Aside from “this is the best job in the world,” the one thing they have all said to me is “I wish I would have kept a journal since the start of my career.” I resolved that I would do that starting with my first tour. After graduation I was riding pretty high on emotion and had three blissful days off before my first tour was to begin.

Continue reading My First Tour

Share