Pennington: There's More Than the Fire Service

What do you mean there is more than the fire service? Having the privilege to share my views on the best job in the world and the ability to travel and teach on subjects that I have a passion for takes countless hours of research and preparation. With this drive to share comes a work ethic that my grandfather Bowen would be proud to see, if he were still living. Days spent researching, writing, shooting pictures, recording video, and podcasting doesn’t seem like work to me because they all are about sharing my passion to serve other firefighters. 

The problem comes when it is time to find the balance between 24-hour shifts, sharing information and family life. You see the most important passion of all is my family.  It goes unsaid that our families put up with a lot when we sign up to be a firefighter. Long periods of times without us being home, interrupted meals or functions and the constant worry that we might be in danger. These can add up quickly. Finding the balance between home and work comes hard to this jumpseat rider because of my drive to pay back what has been given to me. The countless hours on the phone with Rich Gasaway and the many drill nights with Chief Andre Higgonbotham; these leaders help give me a calling in life that I feel needs to be repaid by paying it forward!

At what point does this all come crashing down on us? Does any of this matter if we lose focus on our families?

It wasn’t until this past week, while I was sitting in the crystal blue waters of the Bahamas with my family, that the realization of family first has been neglected. First off, no cell phone! What a pleasure this was. Who would have thought that not having the electronic leash in your pocket would free your mind to truly “let go” and enjoy your family. I thought that I would struggle without constant contact with my fire service friends from around the world, but it was refreshing. 

Secondly, my family rocks! Paying 100% attention to my wife and daughter made me realize how lucky of a man I am. My wife puts up with so much to allow me the honor to travel and share. Holding down the house while your loved one is away takes a lot of work. My daughter is growing faster and faster everyday. Seeing those blue eyes glistening in the Caribbean sunshine was a site for sore eyes. Her smile could light up the world! 

Some lessons are learned the hard way and some the easy way. The lesson that I would like to share today came the easy way. Through six days of cruising on the open ocean, swimming with stingrays, and floating on the clear waters of the Caribbean, my lesson was never loose the focus on family first. 

Our families give us the support and love needed to answer alarms and help our communities. Maybe it’s time we turn the cell phones off, close our Facebook page, and tell Twitter it can wait a little while. After a week without connection I can say the world kept turning and fire alarms were answered. Maybe the fire service can make it a few days without us as we take care of home! I would like to send a huge thank you to my wife Heather, daughter Alyson, and my son Dylan for allowing me the chance to share my passion!