Wounded Warriors

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of  Report on Conditions. The site is run by a Brother Firefighter and friend Captain Joe Schmoe. In many ways, I think the two of us are very similar. It’s amazing how two men from oppisite sides of the Country can share so many views and opinions.

There are several “old sayings” in the firehouse and one of them suggests that firefighting, and firefighters,  as well  as all of  our problems; are the same wherever you go. There are just different names and faces attached to the stories. The more brothers I meet from far away, or the more articles I read,  the more true that saying seems to be.

Captain Schmoe published a post Sunday morning titled  SCARS. As with all his postings, it is well written and touching. He somewhat “opens up” in the post.  That’s something most Firemen have a difficult time doing. He showed personal feelings. He showed he cares.  He is passionate about our profession and strong in his beliefs.  Something in this post upset him and it showed… he cursed…

Inside, I was screaming to myself. “Are you fucking kidding me? Is this what we do to the people that are being maimed while serving our country? We fix them up, best as we can – then cut them loose? Can’t we do any better for him?” 

WOW! Raw emotion from a fireman.  You may remember a few posts of mine. One concerning a young boy whose welfare I was concerned for (for whatever reason). See the 2 posts Ramblings and  Update. Much earlier in my “blogging career”, I wrote an article entitled Time for a Mayday? Do you see a connection to these 4 postings?

Those of us who live this job know that often times, we too are or become the “wounded”. We see and face the tragedy and adversities our “customers” are subjected to on a daily basis. We are expected to “fix” the problem (or at least make it better)  but are all too often not given the resources or authority to do so. They tell us to “fix” something and then tie our hands.  Even the word “customer” bothers me. It’s like the people we serve are cattle or something. Our Departments don’t want a name or face attached. They are customers … give them what they want (or pay for) and move on.

Whos “customers are we?

Who looks after those looking after everyone else? Does you Department take a proactive or reactive approach? The incident I wrote of involving the young boy bothered me (for whatever reason). Do you think my Commanding Officers approached me about it? Should they have? Was I offered someone to “talk to” or was it just assumed that this site and my postings are my “EAP” (Employee Assistance Program). Wouldn’t you hope that my (or anyone else for that matter)  having the courage to tell the story and share my feelings in a public forum would have sparked some Departmental action? Maybe better relations / communications between the Fire Department and governmental agencies such as Social Services?

Is my friend and Brother Schmoe now in the same boat? Do you think his posting will open the door for new policies or procedures? Could it open the door for better relations between his Department and groups such as “Wounded Warriors” or the Veteran’s Affairs? It should.

It is apparent (to those of us who understand anyway) that the incident has weighed heavy on Schmoe’s mind. He feels both anger and helplessness.  He wants to “fix” it but can’t. The system is flawed. Will he be able to function and move on??? YES.   It’s what we do. Should we have to?     Can just “anybody” do it?    I don’t know. What I do know is that folks have to begin to realize that often times … we too suffer. We too are a sort of “wounded warrior”. We all carry a certain or several “incidents” in our minds. The ones we relive in our sleep. Post Traumatic Stress??? In the Fire Department???  Don’t be a puss!

Worry, suffering and sacrifice…. for people we don’t even know!  That’s our job!  Often times, even our families pay for the work we do. Away for 24 hrs. Missing school plays, ball games etc. Working 2nd and 3rd jobs on the days we’re not at the Firehouse.  I’ve done it …. we all have.

There was a time when I drove a charter bus for a private company. I had a regular trip to Atlantic City. They would have no other driver and they tipped well. A good gig.  One particular trip, it was snowing … so hard I could barely see the road. We were headed home but at a snails pace. My youngest daughter had a dog… a dalmatian.. Sandy. They were best friends.. we’d had her from a pup. She was now old. They slept together .. in the bed .. every night. Sandy had to be under the covers and even had her own pillow. They did everything together.  That night, on a snow covered Rt. 66; I got a call. Sandy had died. Peacefully but in the Bed with my daughter.  She was, understandably; very upset.

It was snowing even harder at home and the girls didn’t know what to do. What could they do with 2 foot of snow on the ground and more coming?  They needed me there and they needed me right then. I wnated to be there…more than anything.  Impossible.  A life spent giving to strangers and now my own family needs me and I can’t be there! They couldn’t make it to the barn and there was  NO WAY Sandy would be laid out in the snow and cold.

Luckily for me, a brother Firefighter lives just a mile or so away. I stopped the bus… full of passengers and made a call. Keith Blankinship was there to take it! He made tracks to my house. He comforted my family, then carefully wrapped Sandy and somehow made it down to the barn where he found a safe resting place for her (away from Natures critters and the freezing cold) until I could make it home and bury her.   That’s a BROTHER!

I know I’m rambling here but this is the point I want to make… I think of Captain Schmoe as a friend and brother even though we have never met in person. I know (as only we can) how his most recent incident bothered him… and why. Much like Keith did for me, in taking that call;  I at least want Schmoe to know that “I know” … and that I’m here for him (whatever value that may have).  Someone to shoot the sh#* with. An understanding ear to vent in. Someone who will not only listen to a rant but relate and understand as well.

Hey Schmoe… Thanks for caring and for doing the job you do. Again, I stand proud to share my profession with men such as you!

Captain Wines