What do you suppose makes someone want to wake up, put on body armor with a gun belt or fight fires to work in a job where they continuously see horrible things and they still show up every day? Let’s just say the answer to that may not be simple. Answering right now is difficult because the answer is different for each individual.
How about we start with what drives people towards law enforcement, corrections, EMS, firefighting, dispatching or military service? Each profession is different and poses its own unique challenges. There is a trait that is common to all of them: the commitment to serve.
Individuals in the First Responder community serve in different capacities to achieve a common goal which is: saving lives. They work, all the while knowing that at any moment they may be called on to dig down deep and do something which is extraordinary.
In the face of crisis or presence of peril they will be the ones accomplishing dangerous tasks where their life is at risk. They will go home at the end of their shift and, hopefully, return the next day to do it all over again.
HOW CAN THIS BE?
Let’s start by examining a few things from the outside looking in. We can start with the public perception of how we do our jobs as well as why we do them. Now we won’t get into varying opinions of popularity, which could be an entire separate conversation. Rather, how some people will pose the question, “Why would you want to do that?” or make the statement “You’re crazy for doing what you do!”
They may be right. I have no future in modeling, so I’ll keep doing what I do, for now. Most people will never understand why we choose to do what we do – regardless of our reasoning and explanation. We even assure them that it’s ok. We are all educated, highly trained individuals in our own right.
Certainly, we could do something less dangerous. So why do we choose this path? Again, there is no simple answer that covers everyone. Some of us, myself included, come from a family of law enforcement, corrections or EMS, so you could say it is family tradition or legacy.
Some are the first in their families to choose one of these paths. It takes one person to be the first in a family that starts the tradition. Everyone chooses to do what they do for their own reasons.
Each one of us is aware that when we walk out the door for work, we may never walk back in. We prepare ourselves that today may be the day something changes our lives forever. This can be said about anyone on earth because of traffic crashes and freak accidents can happen to anyone, anywhere.
IT GOES WITH THE JOB
In our chosen career, we choose to put ourselves in the path of danger with some frequency. Running towards (not away) from trouble is something we have witnessed numerous times by first responders all around the globe. (Note: what we witnessed of the sergeant in the Broward County school-shooting last February is the exception – not the rule.)
When tragedy strikes, first responders are called upon to face those challenges – and we do. So, my question again is, “Why?” Why do we run toward gun shots, burning buildings and disaster? Why do we confront danger and stare the very definition of evil in the eye and say, “Not today”? I will try to answer that later.
Admittedly, there are people who sign up for their own, personal gain. They love the perks of the job. They want to look ‘hot’ in the uniform they wear. Some do it just for the power that comes with the job. Those are the tiniest minority. If you get into these lines of work to benefit yourself, you’ve made a huge mistake.
I believe that the self-serving ones will never fully appreciate what it means to serve their community. Our job is to look out for others. But enough about them, time to focus back on the good people who work as first responders.
The responsibility that a person takes-on when we put on our uniform is enormous. The trust our communities put in us is staggering and we must never betray that confidence.
The power we hold and how we choose to use it speaks volumes about the character of the person behind the badge. The name on the patch that we wear on our sleeve reminds us of who employs us. The name on our name-plate announces the family we come from.
DINNER TABLE IMMERSION
As I stated earlier, I am fortunate enough to come from a First Responder family. My father, Kevin, is a retired sergeant from a local sheriff’s office. My late older brother Sean worked EMS for many years. My older sister Kathleen is now a sergeant with the sheriff’s office. My younger brother Denis is a K9 trooper with the state police. Lastly there’s me, another sheriff’s sergeant in the group.
I can honestly say none of us made our career choice for personal gain. We did it out of a sense of tradition and willingness to serve our community. I couldn’t be more proud of my family and the traditions we represent. I look up to and admire them all as they have done tremendous work and continue to do so to this very day. I’m proud of their accomplishments and who they are as officers and people.
We also all work with amazing people in our assigned areas, as well. I have a lot of respect and deep admiration for the men and women I work with, past and present. They deserve our thanks and appreciation for the jobs they do along with everything that comes with it.
Each one of them signed up for this knowing all-too-well of the many risks and few material rewards would come with our choice. None of us planned on becoming millionaires but the satisfaction of helping and serving others is priceless.
SO, TELL ME WHY
So, now to answer the question “why?” I will share insight into what I believe. We do these things because it is inside of us and speaks to the foundation of who we are. It shows how we were raised and what we were taught to believe. That may have been the simple answer all along.
It was a matter of looking at the inside of the characters of these people. The self-sacrifices made and willingness to put ourselves in harm’s way demonstrates an unwavering commitment to serve. We all truly want to help people and be someone our community can count on in times of need.
To use Col. Dave Grossman’s terms, we are the sheepdogs protecting the flock from the wolves and other predators who seek to harm them.
I want to make something clear though, the jobs we do are not all “gloom and doom” 24×7. There are countless good times associated with it too.
There is great satisfaction in helping someone who is in need. It feels humbling when I am able to influence a person who has done wrong. If I am able to help them see that by making other choices, they can turn their lives around to become happy and successful.
A FINAL THOUGHT
I would be remiss if I didn’t include the overwhelming good times we experience, too. Several months ago my brother and other troopers from his post were able to secure a new portable basketball hoop and basketballs. They were donated to some local kids who, without the trooper’s generosity, may never have had any of that gear. It’s about giving back and helping when times are good, as well.
Maybe the next time, instead of someone questioning us and asking, “why we do it?” they will stop, reflect for a moment and join the many who just say “Thank you for doing it.”
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
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Thank you for taking the time to read this message and allowing me to share this touching story with you.