Editor's Note: This year's Full Throttle Support campaign will kick-off at Fire Rescue International on Friday, Aug. 28.
The general public may not know much about the fire service like what trucks are what, why we carry different size hoses, or how many firefighters it takes to make a safe and effective attack on a structure fire. But everyone knows the tragedy that is a line-of-duty-death (LODD) -- someone who has died while trying to help others.
Those of us in the fire service know more than that. We know who it was that is now gone. Maybe we never met the brother or sister that was taken from this world, maybe the LODD announcement was the first time we ever saw their name. But we still knew them.
Just read the announcement and you'll see their blood family and department family quoted over and over about them being a family person, a dedicated firefighter, the joker that was always there to put a smile on, the one that was always first in line when someone else needed help. Every one of us can put a name from our own departments to those descriptions. Maybe some of you feel like I do as I read the announcement and say a little prayer for those left behind and think "but for the Grace of God, go I."
I never win raffles, contests, or obviously the lottery so contrary to popular belief I didn't enter a contest for a motorcycle. I simply made a donation to the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation's (NFFF) Scholarship Fund raffle for the 2009 Pierce-Harley Davidson Fat Boy. Like everyone else I have talked to that bought tickets, we all just made donations because it is the right thing to do to support those left behind when a brother or sister falls in the line. I was just glad to do a small part and contribute like Pierce and Harley Davidson did in a large part by helping NFFF to make the fundraiser a reality. At this time of economic recession I was proud to see two American companies giving back no matter how bad CNN says it is.
Needless to say I was completely unprepared for the phone call that came on May 6 asking me to be an Ambassador for NFFF. I thought it had something to do with the chapter I wrote for the soon to be released textbook -- its profits will go to the NFFF -- or even something related to our grant work or articles for Firehouse.com. To be honest I had forgotten I had even made the donation and that it was attached to a raffle, so I was unprepared for the next part of the conversation where they told me the Ambassadorship came with a new two-wheeled vehicle.
But I was also completely unprepared for the rush of emotion when we got to the ceremony on May 21 at Washington D.C. Fire-EMS Station 3. The Assistance to Firefighter Grants (AFG) application period ended at 5 p.m. EST the day before, so for three weeks prior I was only sleeping about three hours a day on average, and probably half that the last week since we had so many applications to finish writing. So I was feeling something for sure right then, but I first thought maybe I'm just feeling tired, maybe I'm just excited because I've always wanted a Fat Boy and now I'd have one.
But that wasn't it. The true reason I was there finally hit me: I was there because some no longer were. I was there because the families of our brothers and sisters lost in the line needed help taking care of their children and giving them the chance to go to college when they thought the cost was out of their reach. I was there with my three-year-old daughter and my wife, who is due in early November with our second child, while some around me were there without their husband, brother, father, mother, sister, son, or daughter because they gave their lives in the service of others. There were chiefs, company officers, and fellow firefighters missing their brothers and sisters in service and I got to stand there with my loved ones. I was unprepared for the guilt I felt for feeling happy.