Firefighters and the Super Hero myth…

By Paul Combs

By Paul Combs

It’s difficult to be a Firefighter and not LOVE the work of Paul Combs (link). It’s seems every illustration he produces hit’s the nail on the head.

I will often use an image of his (giving due credit of course) in my presentations as I travel the Country and present / speak on various topics.

I used this one (right) earlier this month and afterwards, had the occasion to discuss the point I made from it in detail with some Brothers and Sisters from North Carolina. I’ll share a little of that discussion here today.

Firefighters all across this Country do EXTRAORDINARY things on a daily basis but we are NOT “supermen”. Sometimes we may feel that way about ourselves and are often times viewed that way by the public but, I would suggest that if we wore that big, red and gold, “S” on our shirts it would mean so much more than “Super”.

FF Oath Berkeleyside comFDNY Chief Edward F. Croker was quoted in 1908 saying “Firemen are going to get killed. When they join the department they face that fact. When a man becomes a fireman his greatest act of bravery has been accomplished. What he does after that is all in the line of work. They were not thinking of getting killed when they went where death lurked. They went there to put the fire out, and got killed. Firefighters do not regard themselves as heroes because they do what the business requires.”

“Firefighters do not regard themselves as heroes because they do what the business requires” …. think about that for a minute.

selflesslyI believe that perceived “S” on our shirt is more about Selflessness, Service and Sacrifice than being super.  The longer you’re on the job, the more I hope you’ll understand.

You can’t do the job we do without acting Selflessly.

The job is not about us … it’s not about me and it’s not about you. The job is about the people we are sworn to protect. The people we are sworn to “Serve” and, it doesn’t matter who they are. Rich, poor, young, old, yellow or green, we don’t have the option of choosing. We are in “Service” to our fellow man which among other things takes humility and compassion. I’d call that being “Human” not “Super”.

Like Chief Croker said so long ago… it’s not easy. Taking that oath, joining the Fire Service; just very well may be our biggest act of bravery. That is if we fully understand what it is we signed up for and what it takes to accomplish it.

Sacrifice-Mother-TeresaIt’s about Sacrifice.

Sacrifice in more ways than one and extending to those we know and love (friends, family etc).

I’m not talking about just the “Ultimate Sacrifice” here… laying down our lives for that of another, I’m also talking about the more frequent, often daily Sacrifices we each make.

The missed meals, ball games, school events, Holidays, family gatherings etc…..

It’s kind of ironic … my wife and kids didn’t take the Oath of Service yet they have Sacrificed just as much if not more than I. Again, it’s more than us and all encompassing.

Fireman Up

Fireman Up

I wonder how many of us REALLY and FULLY understood exactly what it was that we signed up for when we took on this job.

There is a Regional Recruit School consisting of new hires from 3 paid Departments in my area that just started recently. Sometime around the first or 2nd week of orientation, the cadets were given a class on Carcinogens and Firefighter Cancer.

It’s a good class. It’s backed by statistics, detailed, very graphic and well presented.

One of the recruits didn’t return the following day! Apparently, he either has or is planning to start a family and didn’t want to “risk” it. He either couldn’t or didn’t want to make (or ask his family to make) the Sacrifice of taking that potential risk.

I wonder how (or if) all those recruits got through the entire process…. applying, written test, CPAT, interviews etc without knowing what it was they were signing up for?

I wonder if they know the things they’ll have to see and do. I wonder if they know the affect it will have on them and their families. I wonder if they are capable of acting “Selflessly”. I wonder if they are ready to “Serve” their communities, Brothers, Sisters and fellow man. I wonder  if they understand the “Sacrifices” they each must make along the way.

I wonder if they fell prey to the Super Hero myth of Firefighters and “The Job” so often portrayed on TV and Social Media. I wonder had they had have known, would they still have signed on?

I know I would have (and did) so maybe that big “S” on my shirt stands for “Stupid”…. LOL

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Stay SAFE and in House!

Captain Wines