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.
Grief.com, Recover from Grief.com , The Sweeney Alliance,Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance, North American Firefighter Veteran Network
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.
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!
Stay SAFE and in House!