Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile. – Albert Einstein
Last night 2 more Boston firefighters died. They died in the line of duty, protecting strangers. Many will say they are “Heroes” because they died in the line of duty, as if they are elevated above other firefighters due to the circumstances. I disagree. I say it’s only because they ARE firefighters they should be considered heroes, and like all firefighters they were heroes the day the signed that blank check to their city. Even before their first call a firefighter should be considered a hero because they and their family have agreed to see how many lives one life of risk can save. A life of service is a blind scale, you know what’s on your side of the scale, the other side is a mystery.
Firefighters know the risks involved and attempt to manage that risk. There is NEVER a time as a firefighter or public service professional when you are 100% safe. The idea in itself is a fantasy. Our job is risk management, and we as professionals excel at it. But it is risk management, not risk elimination.
Joining this profession is just like joining the military; You write a blank check in an amount up to and including your life, and you hope and train so it does not come to that. But that check does not have to be your life, it could be your mental and or emotional state. A high percentage of public service professionals are military veterans who are no strangers to losing their brothers or sisters in arms. A majority of professions do not have to deal with that, EVER. We deal with it almost constantly in one form or another. And every time, every single time, it takes something out of us.
Line of Duty death is really only the tip of the iceberg in reasons for your brothers and sisters leaving public service. I think back now on how many guys just could not do it anymore, left at the end of a shift and came back as a different person. If you were to think about it, how many brothers and sisters have left your department through injury, mental health or physical issues? I know it’s taboo, but how many suicides? How many honestly and truly retired clean and Scott free? I’m personally terrified to tell my wife how many career endings I have witnessed. I’m afraid she’d leave me and I wouldn’t blame her, and I have only been on for a dozen years.
One of the hardest parts is watching your brother/sister get picked apart in the media and social media. Watch out for the Keyboard Countrymen who have never been in harms way for their fellow man. People who have never risked anything for anyone, except themselves. They will want to defend what they think are their rights and what they think is right. They know everything that should have happened and they have evidence to prove it, of course after the incident is over. Just remember you can only harm your department by engaging these people. Do not waste your efforts on them.
If you need help get it. Don’t suck it up, or man up. Do the right thing for your family, your firehouse family, and the people who know you are a firefighter. Getting help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength. It shows your priorities are in proper alignment: 1. ME 2. My Family 3. My 2nd family. You cannot help others if you will not help yourself.
Live a life of service, an honorable life. A life that that could be used as the standard for firefighters everywhere. Nobody is perfect, we fall down. But we get up, we drag ourselves and our brothers and sisters with us and we move forward. We do things goddamn it. We do GREAT things, every damn day. Even the littlest things we do can be amazing beyond measure in the eyes of someone who needs us.
Be useful, have a long career, and at the end, live long enough to make the retirement system regret ever letting you join.
The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
RIP Lt Walsh
RIP FF Kennedy