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“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King’s quote seems acutely applicable to our extended fire service families.  It takes a little pain to determine who will stand next you; who will shed a tear with you; who will dig in their pockets for you; who will go to bat for you; or, sometimes, who will hold you accountable because they care for you.

Firefighters are quick to call each other brothers and sisters; and, by most definitions, for good reason.  They eat, sleep, laugh, and even scrap with one another under the same roof. They are collectors of memories; many good and some horrific – just like a family. Firefighters are individuals that work better as a collective – just like a family. They set goals, succeed, and fail – just like a family. Some firefighters help write the rules; some live by the rules, and others choose not to play by the rules – just like a family.

Naturally, not all families are alike. Most will celebrate together when things are good, but not all are resilient when there is little to celebrate about. Some of our families are hurting – stress and depression have taken their toll, and it seems that there are no easy answers. Still, strong families will usually find a way to pull together.

There are times when the life of a fire department family reminds me of the lyrics of a country song: they almost always include an old pick-up truck, drinking, cheating, a little lovin’ and a loyal hound dog. If the music in our collective minds were to make it to paper, I would hope that the melody would inspire hope and include some version of the following:

  • A sense of appreciation for what makes us unique.
  • Sharing a good meal or cup of coffee together.
  • Solid communication.
  • A sincere commitment to each other – when things are good, and especially when things get tough.
  • Strong core values.
  • The ability to care for physical and emotional needs of our extended family members.
  • A will to ask for and receive help from others.
  • A desire to set meaningful goals.
  • And, of course, an old pick-up and loyal hound dog.

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