Wow…Firehouse World. What a week!
“What?” some of you might ask. “You’re only a firefighter’s wife. What would Firehouse World matter to you?”
But, you would be so wrong to think like this. There were actually many, many wives, girlfriends, and even fiancées there with their firefighters. And of course, there were also plenty of female firefighters too, some of whom are also fire wives.
Firehouse World not only welcomed all of the ladies, but they went the extra mile by inviting us to enjoy ourselves there too. Honestly! They didn’t just say, “Come to us almighty firefighters! And I guess bring your wives and girlfriends if you must…”
No way. They actually had classes for us, a booth for us, and vendors who had items that women would like! Trust me, when I say, attending Firehouse World with my husband was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. We didn’t arrive until Tuesday evening, but it was just enough time to get checked into our hotel and make it over to the U.S.S. Midway for Fire Service Appreciation Night. Since I’m a history nerd, I toured the whole ship with my FF. We walked along while I read signs and he named planes and what war they fought in, what they were used for, and where we might have ever seen them before. We listened, captivated by San Diego’s very own Pipes and Drums. We met new people, welcomed old friends with new hugs, and finally met Peter Matthews in person. Well, my husband met him, then introduced us on the flight deck. As we walked back to our hotel that night, laughing with new friends, we watched four firemen in the back of a tour bike pretend like they were part of the Jamaican bobsled team. Two jumped out to push the bike through an intersection. Never one to leave someone stranded, our new fire chief friend from Idaho helped launch them safely through, to the ruckus cheers of the group.
Wednesday morning had us up bright and early to help set up the Firefighter Wife booth in the exhibit hall. For obvious reasons, this was my favorite hang-out place the entire conference. I’ve been a part of this group for a couple years now, and met hundreds of women across the country who all understand and “get” this life. It takes a special soul to be kindhearted and patient enough, yet tough enough too, to live the life of a firefighter’s wife. In this group, we’re all different, but we all get it. We help each other struggle through the tough times, share in the victories, and encourage each other in life and in our marriages. Again, I got the chance to meet a ton of new friends here; women who, up until then, I had only known online. I hugged ladies from Arizona, California, Idaho, Ohio, and even one from Alaska!
My firefighter left for classes, but returned regularly to fill me in on all he’d learned and comment on how many people were stopping by our booth. While we did have plenty of ladies stop by, there were a ton of men stopping by too! Many firefighters came up to us and said, “My wife wanted to come when she saw about your group in the program, but she couldn’t make it. What information can I take back for her?” Others said, “I’ve never heard about your group before, but my wife would love it!” Then there were chiefs, or former chiefs, who stopped by too. One, in particular, will always stand out in my mind. He told me, “Before I retired I wanted to find out if marriage was really a problem in the fire service. I polled the guys at my little department and this is what I found out. Out of 30 firefighters, we had 35 divorces in our department. And only 25 of them had ever been married.” Wow! This blew me away! Those numbers are horrible, but they are the perfect example of exactly why an organization like Firehouse needs to continue to encourage and support strengthening firefighting marriages. This is exactly why an organization like Firefighter Wife needs to be able to reach firefighters and their wives and let them know, “Hey, it’s tough sometimes, but others have made it through and so can you. Let us help you see how…”