A Blessing ….


For the past 7 months, my life has been a living hell.

I haven’t recovered from Jack’s death and don’t think I ever will.

Since that night, my life has taken a downhill turn. It seems as though nothing has gone “right”. Every time I try to pick myself up, something (or someone) pushes me right back down.

At times, I’m not even sure why I keep trying to get back up but I do. I told someone just this morning that it’s like swimming in peanut butter or trying to keep your head above water while tied to a cinder block. Everyday seems to be a struggle but I’m also tougher than I look …lol.

With all that said, I also know that I have MANY blessings in my life as well… some more obvious than others.

Without a doubt, one of those blessings has been our Fire Department Chaplain, Reverend Sandy Webb (aka Father Sandy or Father Webb).

I met Father Sandy for the first time while on duty back on St. Patrick’s Day 2011. I’m on duty again tonight and seen him for what may be the last time (in this world anyway).

In addition to our Department, Father Sandy serves the St. John’s Episcopal Church here in Roanoke. He announced recently that he will be moving on to Memphis, Tn. to a new church and family. Tonight was his last here in town.

They held a reception for him following the 5pm service. Many of us from the Department attended.

We even had a surprise special gift for him …. a custom painted helmet.

Battalion Chief Teddy Adkins had called a few weeks back to inform me that Father Sandy was leaving. He also explained that he wanted to do something “special” for him.

We discussed having a “custom” helmet painted for him and knew it would make the perfect gift.

Now all we had to do was arrange the details… Captain Bedwell from Station #1 B had the front shield made and I apologize for not knowing where from.

I reached out to a good friend, John Marion of Second Alarm Fire Equipment .

I told John I was looking for a composite helmet that I could afford. I explained to him that we were going to custom paint it and present it to Father Sandy before he left. John jumped on board right away.

Within 2 days, a brand new Morning Pride Ben 2 fire helmet was sitting on my front steps! More than that …. there was NO CHARGE! John wanted to donate the helmet due to it’s purpose.

That’s the kind of person John is and the type of Company Second Alarm Fire Equipment is… FIRST CLASS! I can’t thank him enough. If you guys haven’t heard of or used John and Second Alarm Fire Equipment, YOU NEED TO.

Find John Marion on Face Book HERE

Second Alarm Fire Equipment on Face Book HERE

Second Alarm Fire Equipment Web Site HERE

Chief Adkins had Jimy Presley of The Airbrush Store and More in Danville, Va. do the custom painting. He did an AWESOME job!

We caught Father Sandy off guard because he never had a clue what we had done.

The helmet was painted specifically for him and he recognized that fact right away.

On the right front quarter of the helmet, is the Shield of the Episcopal Church.

A simple design but also very fitting for the helmet. The remaining quarters would require much more attention to detail.

On the front left quarter, we chose a 9/11 remembrance theme.

The attention to detail by painter Jimy Presley is unbelievable!

I wish I was a better photographer because these pictures don’t do it justice.

The American Flag background … the silhouette of the city …. and the Twin Towers!

The flag even looks as if it’s blowing in the wind!

The back of the helmet also says “Never Forget 343”

The rear quarters are just as impressive.

On the right side is a depiction of 2 angels comforting a firefighter.

I’m not sure who the original artist of this now famous image is but I do know it has always “spoken” to me.

There is so much symbolism captured in it.

Father Sandy was like an angel sent to comfort us and he was able to do just that. I’ll explain in a little more detail later in the post.

Again the attention to detail is amazing (the painting is perfect, there is light reflecting in the photograph above the fireman and angel’s  head as well as on one of her wings).

And lastly, on the left rear quarter is a likeness of slain FDNY Chaplain Father Mychal Judge.

I say “slain” bacause Father Judge was murdered on 9/11 in the the attacks on the World Trade Center.

Father Judge was somewhat of a “connection” for me and Father Sandy. As I mentioned above, I met Father Sandy for the first time on St. Patrick’s day in a firehouse.

On St. Patrick’s Day, I always think of the FDNY and my visits to attend the parade. With that on my mind and a Priest in the house, my thoughts naturally turned to Father Judge.

I told Father Sandy the story and he knew exactly who I was talking about. I think he may have even met him before. From that moment on, Father Sandy and I had a bond that only strengthened and grew from that point.

Read the post where I first met Father Webb HERE 

I can’t explain the bond we shared but I do know that nobody expected it.

Me and a Priest …. it actually made some of our members nervous. They kept a distance whenever the two of us were together for fear of lightning strikes … LOL.

All kidding aside, I think a lot of Father Webb. Back on February 4, 2012 I even asked him to Bless my new Phenix Helmet before I placed it into service.

It’s a tradition I’ve kept with all my helmets but this time was different. I knelt before him in my office as he placed a hand on my forehead and held the helmet in his other. I was honored to learn that it was the first time he had been asked to perform such as task. I will never forget it. Read the related previous posts in the links below …

Read ” I need a Priest”

Read about the blessing of my helmet by clicking HERE

That was just the beginning of our “journey”.

I call it a “journey” because Father Sandy and I have been down a few roads together.

From Blessing my helmet, to meals and visits at the firehouse to even attending training with us!

I can’t explain the feelings I’ve experienced when I’ve walked out of an emergency scene and spotted Father Sandy standing there.

It was something more than reassuring and also something that we’ve never had here in the Department.

Read “A Vision of Calm in the Midst of Hell” 

Beyond everything “on the job”, I called Father Sandy the night Jackson died. He came straight over to the house.

I hope he knows what a comfort that was for me and my family. To this day, he remains one of very few that I’ve been able to “open up” to. We never got to finish our last conversation that night but I know that one day … somewhere … we will.

I’ve asked him to other member’s homes as well. In times of need, facing major surgeries etc. Again, he was right there beside us.

I hope he knows what a difference he’s made in so many of our lives. I hope he is able to do the same in Memphis …. I’m sure that he will.

Words aren’t enough but THANKS Father Sandy. THANKS FOR EVERYTHING. May PEACE be with you along your continued journey … we will miss ya!

Stay SAFE and in House!

Captain Wines