From the last bite of turkey on Thanksgiving to the final sip of your beverage of choice on New Year's Day, this is supposed to be a season of joy and gladness. The mad rush for holiday articles, trees, Hanukkah menorahs, lights, candles, air-filled lawn decorations, etc., often help to re-direct our thoughts away from the real nitty-gritty of our every lives. However, any of you who have been a first responder through even a single holiday season will realize that all too often, the representation from above is not always the case. No matter the season, no matter the day, we respond when "invited."
For some reason, I have only recently subscribed to Chief Billy Goldfeder's, "The Secret List," and I now realize, even more than ever before, what a powerful and positive messenger Chief Goldfeder is for us. Yet, when I see a new email from "The Secret List," I often cringe with fear and uncertainty. And that has truly been the case the past couple of weeks. For while we (using the inclusive) first responders, should be able to enjoy all the excitement of the holiday season, our devoted vocation or avocation pulls us out of the mainstream to address one form of emergency or another. (BTW - if you are a subscriber, be sure to "Pass It On," to someone you work with!)
If you are a subscriber to this email, you will know of what I write; it has not been a good two-and-a half weeks for Emergency Services. The three main branches of EMS, Law Enforcement and the Fire Service, have all suffered Line-of-Duty-Deaths. Each of us has lost a comrade, a colleague, a brother and/or a sister. And in the midst of what should be a joyous time, we are forced to face the grim reality of loss.
Moreover, there is also a great body of evidence that comes out during this season, regarding how this time of the year is often very trying for some, especially though with behavioral health issues, and not for the general public alone. More recently, the American Fire Service has begun to focus on those same issues that affect many of our colleagues, not just now, but throughout the year. Sadly, the numbers do not lie. In 2017, we lost more colleagues in the fire service to suicide than to all the LODD's for that period. And now, the fire service has begun to develop a strong and positive Behavioral Health Initiative to help those members who are going through all types of turmoil and pain within their personal lives.
In my civilian life, working in Jewish synagogues and ritual life, I have to attend to too many families who have suffered a loss. Some whom I knew, other I did not, yet I cherished them just the same. As many of our Chief's and Commissioners know, it is not easy to deal with a bereaved family. It takes a strong mix of compassion, empathy, understanding and an inner "steeling of the gut," as one chief put it. We do so and we demonstrate that we are there for them and will try to guide them down this difficult path.
Let us remember all those we have lost, have loved, have worked with, have joked with, have dined with. And let us reach out to those around us to make sure that they are doing well and not masking their inner pain with a fake smile. "Tis the season. God bless us all.
Steve Greene is the president of 5-Alarm Task Force Corp., a 501 (c) (3), non-profit company and the Creator/Host of the "5-Alarm Task Force" podcast.