The Emotion of Brotherhood and wearing a dress….. ok… it's a Kilt!


I’ve gotten several comments, e-mails etc since attending the Harrisburg, Pa Fire Expo last weekend. Like all of the trips Rhett, Zach Green, the MN8 FoxFire Team and I take, this one’s success was well beyond expectations.

I hit some of the highlights of our Expo adventures in my latest post. Use the link below to read that article if you missed out on the details.

Brotherhood of the Harrisburg, PA. Fire Expo

You can also view 40+ pictures from the weekend by visiting the Face Book page in the following link …..

Harrisburg Fire Expo Photo Album

Most of the comments I received were “private” although lots of Brothers and Sisters we met “tagged” themselves in photos and left some great “public” comments. Several of the messages dealt with my visit to two neighboring companies … Colonial Park Fire Company (#33) and the Progress Fire Company (#32). Both were AWESOME visits!

To begin with, Lt Mike Rodkey of Colonial Park hit me up to invite us for dinner. We had never met prior to his invite.

After a few conversations and some scheduling, we arranged to meet them at the station for dinner on Friday evening after our first day on the Expo exhibit floor. I was exhausted.

My wife (Donna) had traveled with me to Harrisburg and accompanied me to Colonial Park. We felt welcome as soon as we got out of the truck.

This was obviously not my first invitation / visit to a firehouse. It was also not the first time I had been invited to share a meal with a Company of firefighters but each experience is as emotional as the first.

I can’t explain it but there’s “something” special that happens for me at these events. I don’t know why Brothers and Sisters across the Country choose to share these things with me but they do. It’s humbling.

One of the first things I noticed when we arrived was the crowd. There was a lot of people gathered but what stood out most was the number of wives and children …. FAMILY …. it was obvious to me that Colonial Park is a firehouse vs. “station.

Something as seemingly simple as the station tour can make an overwhelming impact on a first time visitor to a station (house). My tour was given by a young “live-in” member, “Cheech”. The PRIDE he displayed in showing me each and every little detail of the station was infectious. He knew and explained the history of things like their custom kitchen table, the run board, the photos on the wall displayed in custom diamond plate holders. Their Public Safety Education trailer and custom made “props”.

They have a “Trophy Room” near the front entrance of the station. Trophies and photos line the walls and the center piece is a early model rig used by Colonial Park. Sam Swartz conducted the tour of this room. Sam has been a volunteer at Colonial Park for over 50 years! That in itself says something about who Colonial Park is … about the type of Company they are.

While I was getting a tour of the house, others were cooking and setting the table. It wasn’t long before we all sat down to a fabulous meal…. TOGETHER. Sharing a meal (or “breaking bread” as we call it) is also something very personal. This wasn’t each person grabbing a plate and gulping the food down in which ever secluded place each chose. This was a group of firefighters … husbands, wives and children … a FAMILY sitting down to eat together, talking across, up and down the table  and they had invited ME into their group.

I often hear people on the job talk about the mythical “Brotherhood” and how it either doesn’t exist or is fading. I couldn’t disagree more.

After our meal, we gathered for a few pictures and I had to say my “good-byes” for the evening. I got a little emotional while talking with them … I do that more and more here lately. You see, I explained to them that the Brotherhood is NOT dead. It’s alive and well in houses just like Colonial Park all across our Country. Sometimes, the members just have to slow down for a minute to see it. Sometimes, it takes someone like me, looking (coming) in from the “outside”; to point it out.

It can be overwhelming to see it working … the Brotherhood. To KNOW it still exists. It’s overwhelming to me because I need it. I need to KNOW it lives and that I’m a part of it …we CAN’T do this job alone.  The Brotherhood is a big part of why I joined the Fire Service and I couldn’t stand seeing it gone.

The Brotherhood doesn’t have to be something big …. something tangible. The heart of Brotherhood is often found in the seemingly small things. TRADITION, PRIDE, HONOR and RESPECT is shown in a multitude of ways.

Click HERE to purchase your Ironfiremen / Fire Critic Challenge Coin!

Click here for your Ironfiremen / Fire Critic “Hey Brother” shirt!

I also fielded several questions about the kilts Rhett and I often wear. And for those of you who don’t know, there is a difference between a man wearing a dress and a kilt …. I’m not sure you really want to know what that difference is though …LOL

Rhett and I currently have two kilts that we LOVE. One is Alt Kilt, the other a Bunker Kilt (click on the names for a link). Kilts are a huge part of Fire Service history here in the USA. Yea … kilts.

In the beginning of our Countries development, being a firefighter (or police officer) wasn’t a highly sought after job. In the big cities, these positions were often filled by Scottish and Irish immigrants. When these members died, their funerals were often traditional of their homeland …. kilts, bagpipes, drums etc.

We wear our kilts out of RESPECT and to HONOR those who came before us. So Brothers and Sisters (or whoever) will ask us why and we can share some of the history and TRADITION of our job. We wear them with PRIDE (plus … we look so damn good in em! LOL)

I get the same thing here at home or around the station. The odds are that if you drop by my house, or see a pic of me from the station; I’m wearing my bunker pants.

No, we are NOT as busy as a Rescue Company in FDNY but I EXPECT to be! The first time our rig rolls out the door (on a run, for training, to the grocery store etc) I have em on. You’ll hardly ever catch me on the rig without them on.

I EXPECT fire. I also wear my seat belt … ALL THE TIME. I don’t want to be out on the road and catch a run without being ready. I can’t undo my belt and stand up to get dressed while responding. I don’t want to roll into a “job” and jump out of the rig to get dressed in the street. I can however slide on my coat and SCBA on with the seat belt secured…. that’s why I wear my bunkers. I’m ready to work.

I don’t get what the big deal with our kilts and bunker pants is. If I wore a baker’s apron and chef hat I could understand it. We are FIREFIGHTERS … it’s what we wear and what we do!

Anyway, I’m back on duty tomorrow but will catch up with ya again as soon as possible. Until then, stay SAFE and in House!

Captain Wines