Category Archives: fire fighter

Distribution: Please distribute to all law enforcement personnel – Thanksgiving 2014

As always, I want to say thank you to everyone who has made it possible for me to distribute this message. I cannot express my gratitude enough for your assistance. I also want to thank you, the reader. You don’t have to read my notes, but you do. Because of that, I hope you walk away a better or happier person because of it.

For some of us, it has been a rough year. It’s been a year of the media frenzies. We have added pressure to get the support of the public more than before, all that on top of our regular training and our jobs. I can be tiring, and if we let it, it will kill our satisfaction with our careers and the jobs that we do. It can turn us into bitter people…if we let it.

I know holidays are stressful times for us. Everyone running around, running to the store, running to get this or that. Schedules can make that even worse. We may celebrate Thanksgiving on Friday with our family because we have to work all day on Thursday. Maybe we get off in time, but because of “the job” we don’t feel like being thankful for anything. Most of us have heard the Nietzsche quote “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” You fight with monsters. It may be monsters of crime, destructive natural events, fire, and death. It’s a fight that you wage every day. You slow people down because “Speed kills”. You tireless work to get the message out to “change your batteries when you change your clock”. You are constantly working against the “golden hour”. So what do we do to break the cycle? What do we do to shield ourselves from the “abyss” and fight back our inner monsters? Here are some tips that I’ve come up with and some that others have given me:

1) Don’t take work home with you. Most of us have things that we do so we don’t “bring the job home”. But what if we have to work Thanksgiving? I’ve had spouses tell me that they celebrate the next whole day that their officer is off. So whatever day you are off, be off. Set it aside for you and your families.
2) Do something unexpected for someone. I know that you give A LOT on your jobs, so asking for more may seem too much. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, and they don’t even have to know. You can leave a card in someone’s box. You can leave a gift certificate to someone that needs help. You can invite a friend over for dinner who doesn’t have anywhere to go. I always feel happier when I do something for someone else.
3) Make a list of things you have to be thankful for. We see it on social media during this time of year. But you don’t have to do it that way. Write down a list and look at it every day. Add stuff along the way.
4) Watch a cartoon. Seriously. I’m going to watch “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” with my family.
5) Do something crazy or fun that you normally wouldn’t do. One year one of our officers wore a Santa hat to work on Christmas. I personally thought that was great.
6) Take some time to find your family history. This may take some time, but it will be worth it. You can find out all kinds of things online.

Finally, as we approach “the holidays”, I usually advise that the holidays can be a time of sadness, frustration or depression. If you find yourself struggling in this holiday season, don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance. Your departments may have Employee Assistance Care, Chaplains, Chiefs, other supervisors, clergy and/or even friends for guidance and assistance should you need it. I’ll make myself available to help you in any way that I can. Call us, grab us after roll call, or send an email. Reach out if you need to. Life is a battle best fought with others.

I’ve said it in every email, and every chance I get. I’ve said it to the chiefs and administrators when I contact them. I’ve said it to you on the parks and restaurants. You all are heroes. I don’t know how often you hear it, but I’m certain it’s not nearly enough.

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Please distribute to all Law Enforcement, Paramedic and Fire personnel: Happy Fourth of July

First let me apologize for the lateness of this message. As always, I want to say a big thank you to all who has made it possible for me to distribute this message. I cannot express my gratitude enough for your assistance. I also want to thank each of you reading this. It’s always my goal that something said in these notes will encourage, inspire or uplift you in some way. I know you’re busy and you do a lot to get ready for your shift. So thank you for reading.

As we near the Fourth of July, Independence Day here in America, we take time to remember the sacrifices of those before us. Those who pledged “to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” Writing some years after the events of the Revolutionary War, John Quincy Adams wrote, “Posterity, you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.”

But for those of us in and around public safety, we know that lots of people are not making “good use of it.” There are humans inflicting all manner of evil on each other and sometimes we feel as if we are not accomplishing anything. Not to mention storms and natural disasters. Sometimes we get “weary in well doing”. Sometimes we think we are not making a difference. Sometimes we almost give up. I know what that feels like.

I just finished World War Z with my son. It was a good movie, but I think I have a theory. It’s not zombies or smallpox or aliens or some weather disaster that will cause the world to disintegrate into chaos. I think it is growing darker as people care less. It grows darker as people stop looking out for each other. It grows darker as we hide in fear or self-preservation, or the less we speak out for truth, good, and justice. It grows darker as WE grow darker.

So what do we do? I know that you are out there “fighting the good fight”. Please know, I don’t say this lightly. I say this to some of the strongest people I know. I say it for people who I have seen with my own eyes fight all kinds of evil for a fellow officer, EMT, or firefighter. I just ask that you take courage and fight just a little harder. Fight for each other. Fight for what is right. Keep up that fight! Keep marching toward evil and fighting back the darkness! Are you tired? Feel hopeless? Reach out to a brother or sister. Reach out to a supervisor, chief or Chaplain. But whatever you do, don’t give up and don’t give in. If you need help, ASK. If you can give help, SPEAK UP.

That is what can change our world for the better. We are in this together.

In closing, as always, thank you so much for all you do. I’ve said it before and will say it again, you all are heroes. I don’t know how often you hear it, but I’m certain it’s not nearly enough.

Please distribute to all Police, Paramedic and Fire personnel – Merry Christmas

First, I again want to say thank you to all the Chiefs, Sheriffs, Officers, Administrators, and fellow Chaplains who have made it possible for me to distribute this message.

I wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday season. For those of you in stations or cars working during the holidays, we appreciate the sacrifices you and your family are making while ensuring our safety and security. It does not go unappreciated or unnoticed.

It’s that time of the year again. The Holidays can be a source of wonderful joy. I look forward every year to having some down time, spending time with my family, and going back to my home town to see more of my family. And there’s always a stop (or two or three!) at a police station or fire house to spread more of my support.  It’s a time of traditions. Most of us have them, though yours and mine are likely different. I know that some of you reading this will be working those days. Some of you volunteered so the department newlywed can have that first Christmas with his new bride or the new father with his newborn on Christmas morning. Some of you will be busy at work when I crawl out of bed on Christmas morning, or will hear the tones drop multiple times that night. Some of you will do it in freezing temperatures, and others will do it in warm ones. You will change your holiday schedule and family time around your work, and may not even think about it because “That’s what I do.” As a Chaplain, I’ve been privileged to see some of what goes on “behind the scenes”. I hear the stories and see the sacrifice. Lots of us do. Don’t ever forget that. But if you do, you know where to find me. So, do Doc a favor this Christmas. Have a great time. Be with people you love during the Holidays. Find some time to relax. Do something that makes YOU happy. Sit and enjoy some warm cocoa, or a cold drink (a good raspberry tea is my drink of choice) and enjoy it. You deal with the bad enough. Find some good and soak in as much as you can.

During the holidays, I always put in this information, because I know that someone may need it. The holidays are meant to be times of joy, happiness, time with those we love and hope. While it can produce stress for even the best of us, for some of you can be a time of sadness, frustration or depression. It can be hard to balance out what you have to deal with and still know that there are great people in society as well. I also know that it’s hard for us to reach out sometimes (and I’m no exception to this rule). If you find yourself struggling in this holiday season, don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance. Your departments may have Employee Assistance Care, Chaplains, Chiefs, and any other Supervisor available for help. There is also other Clergy and/or even friends for guidance and assistance should you need it. My phone is always on and I’ll make myself available to help you in any way that I can. Call us, grab us after roll call, send an email. Reach out if you need to.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and best wishes for 2014. I’ve said it before and will say it again, you all are heroes. I don’t know how often you hear it, but I’m certain it’s not nearly enough.

I wish you could know

I wish you could know what it is like to search a burning
bedroom for trapped children at 3 AM, flames rolling above your head,
your palms and knees burning as you crawl,
the floor sagging under your weight as the kitchen below you burns.

I wish you could comprehend a wife’s horror at 6 in the morning as I check
her husband of 40 years for a pulse and find none. I start CPR anyway,
hoping to bring him back, knowing intuitively it is too late.
But wanting his wife and family to know everything possible was done
to try to save his life.

I wish you knew the unique smell of burning insulation,
the taste of soot-filled mucus,
the feeling of intense heat through your turnout gear,
the sound of flames crackling, the eeriness of being able to see
absolutely nothing in dense smoke-sensations that I’ve become too familiar
with.

I wish you could read my mind as I respond to a building fire “Is this
false alarm or a working fire? How is the building constructed?
What hazards await me? Is anyone trapped?”
Or to call, “What is wrong with the patient?
Is it minor or life-threatening? Is the caller really in distress
or is he waiting for us with a 2×4 or a gun?”

I wish you could be in the emergency room as a doctor pronounces dead
the beautiful five-year old girl that I have been trying to save during
the past 25 minutes. Who will never go on her first date or say
the words, “I love you Mommy” again.

I wish you could know the frustration I feel in the cab of the engine,
squad, or my personal vehicle, the driver with his foot
pressing down hard on the pedal, my arm tugging again and again at the air horn
chain, as you fail to yield the right-of-way at an intersection or in
traffic. When you need us however, your first comment upon our arrival will be,
“It took you forever to get here!”

I wish you could know my thoughts as I help extricate a girl of
teenage years from the remains of her automobile. “What if this was my
daughter, sister, my girlfriend or a friend? What were her parents
reaction going to be when they opened the door to find a police officer with hat
in hand?”

I wish you could know how it feels to walk in the back door and
greet my parents and family, not having the heart to tell them that I
nearly did not come back from the last call.

I wish you could know how it feels dispatching officers, firefighters and EMT’s
out and when we call for them and our heart drops because no one answers back
or to here a bone chilling 911 call of a child or wife needing assistance.

I wish you could feel the hurt as people verbally,
and sometimes physically, abuse us or belittle what I do,
or as they express their attitudes of It will never happen to me.

I wish you could realize the physical, emotional and mental drain or missed meals, lost sleep and forgone social activities,
in addition to all the tragedy my eyes have seen.

I wish you could know the brotherhood and self-satisfaction of helping save a life or
preserving someone’s property, or being able to be there in time of crisis, or
creating order from total chaos.

I wish you could understand what it feels like to
have a little boy tugging at your arm and asking, “Is Mommy okay?”
Not even being able to look in his eyes without tears from your own and
not knowing what to say. Or to have to hold back a long time friend who
watches his buddy having CPR done on him as they take him away in the Medic
Unit. You know all along he did not have his seat belt on. A sensation
that I have become too familiar with.

Unless you have lived with this kind of life, you will never
truly understand or appreciate who I am, we are, or what our job
really means to us…
I wish you could though.
author unknown

Courtesy of Palmayra Township FD

Please distribute to all Police, Paramedic and Fire personnel – Happy Thanksgiving

First, I again want to say thank you to all the Chiefs, Sheriffs, Officers and Administrators who have made it possible for me to distribute this message.

This marks the third year that I have been reaching out to you on the holidays. It’s my hope that you have been encouraged, helped, or supported in some way with these notes. For those of you just hearing from me for the first time, welcome. Last year I talked about adversity, but this year I want to talk about something a little less serious. Actually, a LOT less serious. Humor and joy.

I know that you work in a serious job, and quite literally, can be a “matter of life and death” at times. Some of you have seen some of the worst that life has to offer. I’ve heard or read some of the stories. I have a policy that I never ask. But I’ve been told some of them, and I just want to say that I would never want to make light of that.

During some of my reading I’ve came across this as a theme. From Bad days to PTSD, the experts say that one of the keys is keeping a sense of humor. A sense of humor is actually good for us.

Growing up in Eastern Kentucky, I remember watching the news and the Brad James weather forecast. If Brad said it, it was so. If he said it would rain, I was looking for the umbrella. He was also known to pull off a prank or two. He did an annual April Fool’s Day joke, one of which he told viewers of his trip to “The Thousand Islands”, home of the “famous salad dressing”.

I’m sure we all know someone like that, and likely we have been on the receiving end of a prank or two. But how does that help us? Studies show us a few things about humor:

1. Humor can portray a message is understandable ways that nothing else can.
2. Humor can decrease the feelings of rage and anger in those around us.
3. Humor is memorable. How many movie lines can you quote that made you laugh sometime?
4. Humor can be an “ice-breaker” in tense or unfamiliar situations.

There are numerous others that we could list. What better time to have such a tool than the holidays, a season that can be stressful or painful? But you could help improve it for you and others around you. So give it a try.

As I’ve noted before, the holidays can be a time of sadness, frustration or depression. If you find yourself struggling in this holiday season, don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance. Your departments may have Employee Assistance Care, Chaplains, Chiefs, other supervisors, clergy and/or even friends for guidance and assistance should you need it. I’ll make myself available to help you in any way that I can. Call us, grab us after roll call, or send an email. Reach out if you need to.

I’ve said it in every email, and every chance I get. I’ve said it to the chiefs and administrators when I contact them. I’ve said it to you on the parks and restaurants. You all are heroes. I don’t know how often you hear it, but I’m certain it’s not nearly enough.

Stories for my Fire Friends

I’ve seen these posted over time and thought I’d pass them along.


What Do You Make?
Oh you’re a firefighter?? That’s cool. I wanted to do that when I was a kid. What do you make? WHAT DO I MAKE?? “I make holding your hand seem like the biggest thing in the world when I’m cutting you out of a car. I can make 5 minutes seem like a lifetime when I go in a burning house to save your family. I make those annoying sirens seem like angels when you need them. I can make your children breathe when they stop. I can help you survive a heart attack. I make myself get out of bed at 3 AM to risk my life to save people I’ve never met. Today I might make the ultimate sacrifice to save your life. I make a difference what do you make?


The Firefighter Stood
The firefighter stood and faced his God,
Which must always come to pass
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.

“Step forward now, you firefighter,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek?
To My Church have you been True?”

The firefighter squared his shoulders and said,
“No, Lord, I guess I ain’t
because those of us who fight fire,
Can’t always be a saint.

I’ve had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough,
And sometimes I’ve been violent,
Because the streets are awfully tough

But, I never took a penny,
That wasn’t mine to keep…
Though I worked a lot of overtime
When the bills got just too steep,

And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear,
And sometimes, God forgive me,
I’ve wept unmanly tears.

I know I don’t deserve a place
Among the people here
They never wanted me around
Except to calm their fears.

If you’ve a place for me here, Lord,
It needn’t be so grand,
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don’t, I’ll understand.”

There was a silence all around the throne
where the saints had often trod
As the firefighter waited quietly,

For the judgment of his God,

“Step forward now you firefighter,
You’ve borne your burdens well,
Walk peacefully on Heaven’s streets,
You’ve done your time in Hell.”


When God Made Firefighters
When God was creating firefighters, he was into the sixth day of overtime when an angel appeared and said, “You’re doing a lot of extra work on this one.”

And the Lord said, “Have you read the specs on this order? A firefighter has to wake up to a fire alarm, go into burning buildings to rescue people and enter areas the normal person wouldn’t go.

“He has to be willing to leave his family and put his life on the line, work to exhaustion and beyond and be ready for the next call.

“He has to have a strong commitment to a personal calling that places their lives in jeopardy every day.

He has to be in top physical and mental condition at all times, function on black coffee and half-eaten meals, and have a heart big enough to love members of the ‘brotherhood’ world-wide, and a unity of purpose.”

The angel shook it’s head slowly and said, “A heart that big… no way.”

“It’s not the heart that is causing me problems,” said the Lord, “it’s the extra hands and eyes a firefighter has to have.”

“That has to be on the standard model?” asked the angel.

The Lord nodded. “One pair of eyes that sees the whole situation, another pair that sees what is ahead to be dealt with, a third pair to watch out for his brothers, and another pair here in front that can look reassuringly at an injured victim and say, “You’ll be alright,” even when he knows it isn’t so.”

“Lord,” said the angel, touching his sleeve, “rest and work on this tomorrow.”

“I can’t,” said the Lord, “I already have a model that can carry a 190 pound victim out of a burning building, has dedicated his life to helping people, and is willing to come to the aid of those threatened by the deadly force of fire.”

The angel circled the model of the firefighter very slowly, “Can it think?” the angel asked.

“You bet,” said the Lord. “It can tell you the elements of a hundred fires, the victims and rescues, and the importance of fire safety…. and still keep its sense of humor.

“This firefighter also has phenomenal personal control. He can deal with fire scenes painted in hell, coax a trapped person or animal out of a burning building, and still go home and love his family.

“Being a firefighter is one of bravery, loyalty and devotion to public service. He is willing to put his life on the line every day to protect our homes and our loved ones from the devastating effects of fire, and sometimes, the honorable job of saving lives requires many firefighters to pay the ultimate price for their valor in the line of duty.”

Finally, the angel ran a finger across the cheek of the firefighter. “There’s a leak,” the angel pronounced. “I told you that you were trying to put too much in this model.”

“That’s not a leak,” the Lord said, “it’s a tear.”

“What’s the tear for?” asked the angel.

“It’s for bottled-up emotions, for fallen comrades, for the victims, and for commitment to that piece of cloth called the American flag.”

“You’re a genius,” said the angel.

The Lord looked somber. “I didn’t put it there,” he said.

Chaplain: Murder on Oak Ridge Dr.

Normally I do not re-post articles, but I send this out to all my LEO and fire friends. Know when to ask for help and ASK. This article comes from Officer.com, so it is written for the police perspective. But trauma can happen to any of us. When it does, do you know what to do or who to talk to?


Chaplain: Murder on Oak Ridge Dr.
by Fr. John Harth
Updated: March 25, 2011

She was elderly and lived alone. There were no signs of forced entry; it is presumed that she knew her killer.

The arriving officer called in detectives. As the hour grew later, he asked if the Lieutenant was going to call a chaplain. The “ell tee” allowed as how there was no need, as no family was local. The officer replied, “What about me?”

This has been a rare situation over 23 years of chaplaincy: an on-scene officer requesting a chaplain through someone else. Some consider asking for help in any form a sign of weakness. Time has shown that those who suppress their feelings eventually have them come back to haunt them. It is not unusual for another incident to trigger thoughts of a scene or case from days gone by that the individual thought long gone, but which has lingered in their memory.

Larger departments and agencies have come around to offering employee assistance programs, some of which offer peer support, others assisting in getting the counseling some folks need to work through critical incidents. Smaller towns may benefit from considering ways to less officially offer their personnel a listening ear.

The officer I mentioned earlier got word to me the next day. We visited the scene. He described what happened and what was going through his mind. He didn’t need counseling; he just wanted someone to talk with. His career wasn’t damaged, he made promotions; he moved up the ladder. He knew when to ask for help.

Many of us try to go it alone. We think we can manage our lives on our own, that we don’t need anyone else, that others will think less of us if we seek assistance with our troubles. More often than not, sometime, some way, burying stressors comes back to bite us when, and in places, we don’t want to be bit.

When citizens need help, they call a cop. When cops need help, they can call a chaplain. Yours wouldn’t mind hearing from you.