Listen Brothers & Sisters

I was sitting at my desk busily working on a printable conference brochure when I heard an older gentleman’s voice echoing from down our long corridor hallway. He was asking questions about the shelf life of his home fire extinguisher. I hear Marc instruct him on pressure checks, so I stumble my way out of my office and introduce myself. I explain to him that although home extinguishers do not come with an expiration date, the recommendation is between 5 to 15 years, and if you cannot remember when you bought it, it is best to replace it. I excused myself and stumbled back to my office. I heard the gentleman tell Marc that he too was a volunteer firefighter for Franklin before the department went full-time.

Next thing I know the gentleman is sitting in my office and we began talking about volunteer service and the topic of PTSD comes up. He tells me that his neighbor, a friend of his, was also in public service and that he had just committed suicide not long ago. I can see the pain in his eyes when he tells me that he just cut the grass and blew the leaves off the porch of his neighbor’s home even though he is gone. I can hear his pain when he tells me he just spoke to his neighbor’s brothers and family members offering them his shoulder and words of kindness.  I can feel his pain as he shares stories of conversations he had with his neighbor about how he dealt with stress and I can see his eyes light up with nothing but love for the neighbor he considered a son.

I realize this gentleman came in with the intentions of gaining insight on his extinguisher and not talking about his neighbor, but could it also be that he came in looking for someone to talk to? He is obviously carrying a pain so deep, that it needed to go somewhere.  He was looking for someone/ anyone who would not pass judgement and someone who would listen.

If there is anything that could be gained by this – I believe that no matter the status of our service, either retired or not, we have a duty to each other to listen.  Please keep yourself open to listening to your brothers and sisters. If there is ever anything you need to say about a call, about a loss, about a situation, I hope you speak up and allow your brothers and sisters to hear you.

Free 24/7 Helpline: 1-888-731-FIRE (3473)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Author: Amanda Bates, P/FF, Conference & Education Director
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