To date, my department has lost FOUR of our own in the Line of Duty/ On-Duty. All of these were killed/died prior to me joining the department. I did have the opportunity to meet the four families of our fallen during our Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service that was held at the end of August. I wrote a short piece on the article here.
At the end of the ceremony, I had a few moments to spend with the family after we unveiled our Memorial Wall. I made note of the fact that the deaths had occurred from 1949-1988. During that time period, communication had been lost between our department, our members, and our fallen firefighter’s families. Through retirements, new hires, and the years between the deaths, there was a definite gap of time that little or no communication had taken place with most of the families. I extended the offer that if the families needed ANYTHING for them to call. I wasn’t pointing blame at anyone…I was only extending our hands and shoulders with the families.
While I was camping this week, my phone rang. I recognized the number because I had called it on numerous occasions during the planning/ researching that was involved leading up to the ceremony. On the other end of the phone, I heard a hesitant and soft voice reaching out for help. The gentleman reminded me of how he believed the invitation to be sincere, and he stated he NEEDED help.
The man on the other end of the phone that day was a son that lost his father too soon. The gentleman’s mother lost her husband too early. The phone call consisted of a few requests of transportation due to some medical conditions that have arisen since our ceremony. While I knew he was hesitant to call, I was glad that he did. It reminded me of my words to the families on the day of the ceremony, and it reminded me that we have a DUTY to uphold.
It is not uncommon to hear our brothers and sister around the firehouse to say “If you need anything, let me know”. While the open invitation is often never requested, we need to all realize that it may be. It is our job, our duty, and our responsibility to take care of our own. If we have a brother or sister in need, we should be by their side every step of the way.
I answered the gentleman’s call knowing that there was a need. It may be transportation, it may be a monetary request, or it may be just an ear to listen. I spent several hours today at his house. I listened about the old stories of how my department was back in the day. I heard the perspective coming from a son who grew up with his dad leaving the house at all hours of the night to answer that call. I tell you this not to receive any type of credit or recognition for answering that call, but only to ask you to do the same.
If your department has had a line-of-duty death, I challenge you to ensure that those lines of communication are still open. If they aren’t….there is still time. Often times, individuals have no one to go to and find themselves searching for someone to listen. It may not be the family of a LODD, instead it may be a retiree needing assistance or even a brother or sister on the job. We always need to be sure that we are taking care of OUR OWN and the families of our FALLEN!
The “Model City” Firefighter