Category Archives: Fire

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

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 hope you find this email helpful and encouraging. This email marks five years that I have been sending out these emails on the holidays. So whether this is your first time reading, or you’ve been on board since the beginning, welcome. I’d like to take this time to reflect on some of the things I’m thankful for at this time.

I will say that this has been a life-changing experience for me. In the last five years, you have taught me more about life (and even myself) than I thought possible. This all started by just wanting to say “Thanks” to a group of local folks who I thought were under-appreciated. And over time, that “mission” has evolved and broadened, and broadening me with it. For that, I say Thank you.

I say “Thank you” for picking up some meals. Thank you for inviting me into your homes. Thank you for opening up and telling me what you really thought about the job (It’s hard, you don’t like the hours, you are lonely on the holidays.) Thank you for not sheltering me from the bad, from the disasters, from the politics, and from the things that make your job so difficult. Thank you for telling me that is OK to feel anger at the kidnapping suspect, for saying it’s OK to vent with you later. Thank you for also telling me that a death notification is very hard, emotional, and draining and it’s OK to go outside “for some air”. Thank you for showing me you are human. That you get angry, hurt or depressed. Thank you for allowing me to see your emotions at the funeral. And for those who knew when my wife was in the hospital, and for sending the cards, thoughts, calls and prayers.

For those of you whom I have never met “in person”, you have not been any less appreciated and impactful. Thank you for showing me that even in your department’s worst times, you take the time to drop a nice email or call me. Thank you for trusting someone (whom you may never meet) enough to read and pass along my notes. Thank you for giving me insight into what it’s like policing in Alaska, or working a fire crew in Maui.

Thank you I can now understand better what you feel, and as a chaplain, that’s what helps me be able to help you. And last but not least, thank you for showing me that the “Thin Blue Line”, “Thin Red Line” and the “Thin White line” are not just images or ideas. They are a reality and a symbol of what is good in the world.

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 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.

As we finish 2012 and prepare for 2013, there are numerous things we are having to do. For those of us in the cold weather climates, you may be checking, repairing, or purchasing cold weather gear. Then there is the Christmas shopping for family and friends. Then there is the arranging to cover the shifts at work. Who is working Christmas Morning? You may be cramming those visits to doctors or dentists since you have already met your deductibles for the year. You might be pulling in all the overtime you can. You may also be making plans with multiple families scheduled around your shift and rotations. It can be the most hectic time of the year. Add our potential job stress on top of that. Increases in domestic violence, fires, homicides, accidents, and suicides. So how can we enjoy “The Holidays” with all that stress? Here are a few ideas I have come up with.

– I’m a big stickler for finding time for yourself, so more than ever, make time for you. Big or small. For example, I go to the same place to eat every Thursday for lunch and get the same thing. It allows me to decompress and just relax.
– Have a child read you a story. Find one with words outside of their age range. Sometimes helping a child through words like “Caesar Augustus” or what a “clatter” is and why it would arise on the lawn can bring a smile to your heart.
– Attend a play put on by children.
– Give a stranger a gift.
– Give someone a random compliment.
– Work out. Raising your heartbeat and taking time to zone out with exercise helps relieve stress, anxiety, and tension that can be so prevalent around the holidays.
– Have some Dark Chocolate. Aside from its fat-burning properties and antioxidants, savoring a piece of dark chocolate can help release soothing serotonin hormones in your brain to help better your mood.
– Make a list of things you can be thankful for.

These things may not change the world, but it could improve yours, and that’s what’s really important.

During the holidays, I always put in this information. That the holidays “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.” True as it may be, it’s hard for us to reach out sometimes. 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, any other Supervisor, 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 2013. 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 – Happy Thanksgiving

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 have noticed that sometimes in life, the lessons we are best able to teach can be those we have learned ourselves. So since we are coming up to Thanksgiving, I’m going to briefly talk about cynicism.

How do we reconcile when recent studies show that cynicism releases chemicals in your blood that is bad for your heart with what we are told in training? We’ve all been told “Always plan for the worst in any traffic stop”. “Prepare for the worst in every house fire.” But is there a difference in preparing and training for the worst, and being cynical? I think there is a fine line, and we can prepare for it, but not fall victim to it’s danger. When we get in the car, we put our seat belts on. When we initiate a traffic stop, we can keep our hands on our gun. We never turn our backs on anyone or anything. We pause before going through a light when we are running code. We do this because we are trained to and it’s good practice.

I think the line is where and when cynicism occurs. We have to be “on guard” to not let this affect other areas of our lives. Does our work-mindset carry over into our personal lives? From time to time, all of us are “over the top” at some point with friends, co-workers or our families, and I’m no exception. I felt the need to send the following email to my co-workers.


“Sometimes we all get to a place in life when we find it easier to surrender to cynicism than to resist it. Sometimes we surrender for various reasons. Money issues may be wearing on us. Sickness (or extended sickness) in our families. Family issues may be wearing on us. And, as much as we like to think we can (or at least try) , we can not flip a switch to isolate parts of our lives from the other.

We allow ourselves to be grumpy, short with others, and sometimes hateful. We justify our thoughts to ourselves, then when it becomes actions we justify it to others. And we allow ourselves to continue down that slope. We allow others to feed into it, and even worse we feed into others. It’s easy to float downstream, and hey, everyone is doing it. We make judgments based on what we think we know, and it turns out we might not have had all the facts.

I’ve been in a couple of conversations in the last few days that have pointed this out. Jaded and cynical does not match my Hawaiian shirts very well. A friend once asked me a question that I taped to my monitor (because I knew I’d forget it). When we were having a “gripe session” Todd said , “Well you should ask yourselves a question…’How can I make this better’ and then prepare to live by it.”

I said all that to say this… in the better or bitter battle that we all fight in our own souls, I have allowed myself to become a little more bitter. And that has affected some of you. And for that I am sorry.”

It’s been said that “revenge is a dish best served cold”, but I’ve found that crow is not good regardless of how it’s prepared. But even the best of us have to “eat crow” and admit we are wrong from time to time. I’m passing this along to you, my readers, in hopes that you will learn from my mistakes, and not your own.

So, stand up and make a difference. Do what it takes to be safe on the job. Train, study, take classes, stay alert. But I also ask that you talk to someone if you find yourself struggling. If you find you can never relax, or trust people, find someone to talk to. As I generally note during the holidays, 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.

Please distribute to all Law Enforcement, Paramedic and Fire personnel – 9/11/2012

Distribution: Please distribute to all Law Enforcement, Paramedic and Fire personnel

First, I want to say thank you to everyone who has made it possible for me to distribute this message. I can not express my gratitude enough for your assistance.

Greetings to you as we head toward September 11th. The day we stop our normal routine to remember those who lost their lives in the attacks that horrible day. Among the 3000 people that lost their lives that day, we take special note of 343 firefighters and the 72 officers that laid their lives on the line for the safety of the people they served. Since then over 50 people have died from illness caused by working at “Ground Zero”.

As I write this, line of duty deaths are down (70 for Law Enforcement and 55 in the Fire Service), and we have a fighting chance to be under 100 for both groups. That also is good news.

Perhaps one of the most iconic scenes in TV is that of Sergeant Phil Esterhaus (played by Michael Conrad) on Hill Street Blues saying “Hey, let’s be careful out there.” So my note today will hopefully cause you to think what that means to you. I’ve been in numerous departments serving different types of communities. Urban, rural, paid, volunteer and departments that serve as both police officers and fire fighters. So “careful” will mean different things to you depending on a lot of factors. I am by no means an expert, or trained to be either, but I have received some tips and pointers along the way. Take and use any of these in any way you can.

– Wear seat belts.
– Have a first aid kit in your car. If they are not supplied by your department, take the money and time to build one.
– Wearing your protective gear (vests, fire suits, etc.)
– Drive at a safe and reasonable speed. Are the seconds worth the risk?
– Training is different for agencies depending on a variety of factors. Do you take advantage of the training available? Do you view materials like the “Below 100” campaign for LEO’s or the various fire safety articles for you firefighters out there?
– Always wear protective gloves when doing first aid and when dealing with blood.
– Review Line of Duty deaths and major incidents to see if there is something you can take away from the situation. What could YOU do differently to see a better outcome?
– Review the hazards in your local area. What could go wrong and are you ready?
– Never under estimate mother nature. Growing up in Kentucky and living in Ohio, I always thought a hurricane would never be something to worry about. That was until the “remnants” of Hurricane Ike took my power for four days.
– Contact other departments who have faced weather or situations that you have not. I’m sure they would be willing to share their lessons learned. Collaboration is our ally.

Those are just a few. There are numerous websites that give tips to any department on how to be “safe out there”.

In closing, I hope I could bring you some encouragement and some food for thought. Doc thinks of you often and appreciates you more than you know.

I’ve said it before and will say it until I take my last breath, you all are heroes. I don’t know how often you hear it, but I’m certain it’s not nearly enough. Thank you for all that you do.

Line of Duty Deaths in the last three weeks.

I had been so busy with numerous things that I had not gotten to post the heroes who gave their lives for the safety of our county. May they rest in peace.

Hero Department EOW Cause
Police Officer Celena Hollis Denver Police Department, CO Sunday, June 24, 2012 Gunfire
Agent Victor Manuel Soto-Velez Puerto Rico Police Department, PR Tuesday, June 26, 2012 Gunfire
Trooper Aaron Beesley Utah Highway Patrol, UT Saturday, June 30, 2012 Fall
Border Patrol Agent Leopoldo Cavazos, Jr. Border Patrol Friday, July 6, 2012 Automobile accident
Patrolman Christopher Reeves Millville Police Department, NJ Sunday, July 8, 2012 Vehicle pursuit
Police Officer Brian Lorenzo Philadelphia Police Department, PA Sunday, July 8, 2012 Vehicular assault
Lt. John L. Echternach, Jr. Boones Mill Volunteer Fire Department 07/02/2012 Vehicle Strike
SMSgt Robert S. Cannon 145th Airlift Wing 07/01/2012 Vehicle Collision
Lt. Paul K. Mikeal 145th Airlift Wing 07/01/2012 Vehicle Collision
Major Ryan S. David 145th Airlift Wing 07/01/2012 Vehicle Collision
Major Joseph M. McCormick 145th Airlift Wing 07/01/2012 Vehicle Collision
Firefighter Rocky E. Dunkin Nile Township Volunteer Fire Department 07/01/2012 Unknown
Firefighter Ronald Keddie Sheridan Fire Department,NY 06/27/2012 Stress/Overexertion
Fire Chief George Davis Hollis Fire Department,ME 06/23/2012 Heart Attack

Please distribute to all Police, Paramedic and Fire personnel – Happy Fourth of July

Distribution: Please distribute to all Law Enforcement, Paramedic and Fire personnel

First, I want to say thank you to everyone who has made it possible for me to distribute this message. As always, I am grateful for your assistance.

Greetings to you and Happy Forth of July.

As I write this, line of duty deaths are down for everyone and that is indeed good news, and hope that the downward trends continue.

Nelson Mandela said, “There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.” Robert Reich stated, “True patriotism isn’t cheap. It’s about taking on a fair share of the burden of keeping America going.”

The more that I ride with and talk to you, the more those statements really speak to me as to what you are all about. You walk through that valley again and again to protect your communities. You “fight the fight” every day, and you take the risk to yourself to keep up safe. In addition to that, there is all the effort that goes behind those decisions. The hours of training, cleaning, pressing, studying and doing all the things to keep yourself focused and ready.

I have also been close enough to see some of you perform in times of disaster. When tornadoes hit my home area of Kentucky this past March, I saw dedication and determination that was amazing. I saw how you pull together and pull extra duty when you are OK to cover for others who were trying to recover. I came to see if you were OK and where I could help, and you taught me more in those times than I could have imagined.

I’ve always thought that you always not only did your “fair share of the burden of keeping America going”, but well beyond that, and you keep showing it. I’ve always said that I wish I could make life a little easier for you, but I help where I can. It’s my hope that I can persuade those around me to do what’s right and safe, and how to make it easier when they don’t. But beyond that, I hope that with these emails, it gives you that “breath of fresh air” that helps make your job at least a little easier.

In closing, as always, thank you 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.

Confession of a new Chaplain

A friend of mine posted a story on Facebook, and I just had to track down some information on the story. It is one of the most touching stories I have read in a long time.

My friend is a widow. Her husband was an officer who was killed in the line of duty. I must admit, I’ve seen the grief of family who have lost a spouse, but it has been “expected” to some degree. But a sudden loss, where someone has taken from you the opportunity to say goodbye, I can not even begin to imagine how that feels.

As a new Chaplain, some of my duties are easy to understand and fun to do. I use “duties” lightly, because I enjoy it, so it just seems natural to me. I’ll be honest, I do get a thrill in a police car. It’s a great feeling to know that someone trusts you enough to tell you the good, bad and ugly of being a cop. But as tragic as a line of duty death is, for the most part, it happens other places, but not here…not close to me. As Chaplain, I cover Huber Heights, and can provide “mutual aid” to anyone who may need it. But as Doctor Mike, I cover over 400 departments in 3 states. In some of those cases, maybe even most, I would not be able to be there them in person. Then I have to think how I help them grieve from 200 miles away. Honestly, this is the duty I dread. In an ideal world, all the good guys go home. But we don’t live in an ideal world. And when life goes wrong, we are there for the family. I like “being there” for people, and helping people through hard times, and telling people things will be all right. But in this scenario, I can’t say they will be all right. I hope to only help them through the pain that they now face.

There’s training on the “death notification”, and articles by “experts”, so I can know the facts and the techniques. The what not to say, what to say, be direct, but not too direct. Don’t use vague concepts “passed on”, and NEVER give them false hope, but if there is hope, give them some. It’s not easy, but my part in that story is the brief , painful beginning, and theirs is for the remainder of their life. I’ll never forget my pain when Deputy Hopper was killed, but it was small in comparison to her family and the CCSO.

So the story is below. I dedicate this to the large (and growing) number of Law Enforcement and Firefighter spouses who have struggled and still struggle with picking up the pieces and moving on. It’s is spread around the internet (with people changing the name), based on the book “Saying Olin to Say Goodbye” by Donald Hackett.


The time of concern is over. No longer am I asked how I am doing. Never is the name of my partner mentioned to me. A curtain descends. The moment has passed. A life slips from frequent recall. There are exceptions … close and comforting friends, sensitive and loving family. For most, the drama is over. The spotlight is off. Applause is silent. But for me, the play will never end. The effects are timeless. Say Olin to me.

On the stage of my life, he has been both lead and supporting actor. Do not tiptoe around the greatest event of my life. Love does not die. His name is written on my life. The sound of his voice replays within my mind. You feel he is dead. I feel he is of the dead and still lives. You say he was my partner. I say he is. Say Olin to me and say Olin again.

It hurts to bury his memory in silence. What he was in the flesh has now turned to ash. What he is in spirit, stirs within me always. He is of my past, but he is part of my present. He is my hope for the future. You say not to remind me. How little you understand that I cannot forget. I would not if I could. I forgive you, because you cannot know. I strive not to judge you, for yesterday I was like you. I do not ask you to walk this road. The ascent is steep and the burden heavy. I walk it not by choice. I would rather walk it with him in the flesh. I am what I have to be. What I have lost you cannot feel. What I have gained you cannot see. Say Olin , for he is alive in me.

He and I will meet again, though in many ways we have never parted. He and his life play light songs on my mind, sunrises and sunsets on my dreams. He is real and he is shadow. He was and he is.

He is my partner and I love him as I always did. Say Olin to me and say Olin again.