When I think of fathers in the fire service I envision a child looking up to his father getting dressed in the morning in his immaculate uniform, jumping in a big truck and riding on a fire truck running around the city saving people, a hero that I look up to and someone I want to be one day when I grow up. Now being a father myself, I see a lot of my vision though the eyes of my children. As many of their toys are fire trucks and they even have their own set of play bunker gear. Not to mention every time a siren sounds and a fire truck passes they scream with joy. Visits to the fire station are always a treat as they get an opportunity to climb all over the truck and play firefighter for the day. It makes me so happy to see the joy all over their faces.
Since my father passed at an early age, I never had the opportunity of a regimented idol to watch get up at the break of dawn looking high and tight go to save lives for 24 hours. However, my brother I did look up to. He was the closest thing I had being seven years older than me, and finding the fire service while I was in my junior year of high school. He was the one with a good head on his shoulders while I was the one trying to figure out what was in store for me, performing poorly in high school and hanging out with friends that weren’t really guiding me to success. He was my mentor, and one Christmas, he was on duty and we had the opportunity to spend the holiday together at the firehouse. That’s when I immediately fell in love with the job, with the station, with the uniforms, with the fire trucks and the fact that at any moment when that bell rang everything drops and your called to duty, it was a rush for me.
Later that year, I made the decision to become a firefighter and of course I went to my brother for answers and guidance. At this time, I did not look at him as a mentor but he filled the role as many mentors do, trying to guide me and provide me with the tools and information I needed to be successful, much like a father would do for their children. He explained to me the process, told me what is expected of me, explained that I would need to change my ways and concentrate on school and finish with good grades and keep a squeaky clean driving record. He told me I could not have any interactions with the police that would smear my name. He inspired me, and just like that I was taking school seriously. Soon I was getting top grades and went from getting monthly speeding tickets to having a flawless record by the time my first application was submitted. He took me to a school for EMT, gave me books, then to fire academy and provided the gear that was nearly new, and finally enrolled me in Paramedic school where I finished top of my class. I was lucky to get offered a job right out of school, but he pushed me to interview for a department that had excellent pay and benefits and a place I could finish my career, which was invaluable in itself. Moving along my professional career he continued to support me and guided me through all three of my promotional testing processes. He was always a step or two ahead of me, which gave him that inside intelligence and an edge that I feel led to a big part of my success. I have his guidance and mentorship to thank for all my accomplishments. He was not my father, he was my brother, but as an older wiser brother, he was able to guide me in the same way I imagine my father would.
A lot of characteristics come to mind when you think of the word father. Especially a person that has devoted his life to helping others, wearing a badge on his heart and being a positive role model in the community. Integrity, empathy, morals, dedication, passionate, loving, selflessness; these things embody a firefighter. I see this across my department with individuals always going the extra mile to do good for the community not only on duty, but at all times an opportunity presents itself. Could it be they act this way because it is expected of them? Because they feel impelled to serve by nature? Because they want to be a role model for other firefighters and their children who look up to them? My answer? All of it. My brother, possesses all of those traits and more, and exhibits them in every aspect of his life. He is a highly respected Battalion Chief at work, a beloved husband, father, son and brother. He always had my back and the age difference gave him the chance to step up and put his mark on me and guide me into a career I can be proud of, and my children would look up to.
I plan on continuing the legacy, promoting higher and higher and being the best person I can be on and off duty, to be a role model for my kids and teach them how to be the best they can be, even if they do not choose the fire service. That is what a father does, he gets up, goes to work, does the best he can, leaves it better than he found it and leads from the front, teaching and modeling the behavior and characteristics to raise his children to their highest potential. And when the time comes, guiding them through their life decisions, keeping their heads straight and hands clean so they can be successful in their lives. Hats of too all the fire service fathers out there, to all the father figures out there and all those that are mentoring and helping those in need of guidance.
Happy Fathers Day to all!