One Man’s ‘Why’
“I could not do what you do.”
“No way would I walk into that burning house.”
“Why do you do it? Why take so much risk, when you will not even get paid for it?”
These are all the typical responses I receive when I discuss my involvement in the volunteer fire service. A coworker at my day job will ask what I did over the weekend and when I describe the various emergency scenarios that my crew attended or the training scenarios we worked on, invariably I am asked the famous three-letter question: WHY? The truth is, the answer to that question is much more complicated and longer than across the hall or between case staffings discussions will allow. I believe that we all have a moral and spiritual obligation to assist our fellow man and woman at every opportunity that is presented to us, which is my typical short response to that question. But for me there is so much more to it than that for me.
When I was a teenager in high school, at around the age of 14, I joined a volunteer department that was about 25 minutes from my home then. I simply believed it would make a unique and powerful impression on my college resume, and would be nothing more in my life than just a line on the paper. (To date, I am now second sergeant, have been involved for 11 consecutive years as either explorer or firefighter at said department and live 2 minutes from the station. How mistaken I was on that account.) Two years passed, myself and my class all for most part got our driver’s licenses and began driving. I was offered the chance to join the department much closer to home, which would enable me to respond to more calls, however I refused, citing my workload at school, obligations at home and my first department. Then I received a phone call from a good friend of mine that a young lady in my grade, who I had considered to be one of my best friends had passed away in a car accident. The date was August 14, 2011. The horrible accident had occurred the night before, August 13, 2011. I had heard the 911 call paged for my local department over my scanner, but had dismissed it as insignificant since it was “not my coverage area” and “didn’t sound all that bad”. The incident occurred within walking distance of my house. It was later determined that she was killed at the moment of impact and no amount of immediate intervention would have changed the outcome of that terrible night. Even so, it changed something inside of me. No longer would I be that scared kid hesitating to take action. No longer would I refuse to respond because “it doesn’t sound that bad”. I joined the closer department and worked with them until I moved out of that town.
Now I am married to my beautiful, loving wife and we both are highly active in my original fire department. She is a nurse and shares with me the same kind of desire to help others on their worst days, and will go to any lengths to change an outcome for the better. That incident from eight years ago continues to linger in the back of my mind, and often serves as a reminder when the pager goes off late in the night or when I am in the middle of something else. I firmly believe that every man must find his own ‘why’. His reason for being here on this Earth. Having no drive, no motivation, nothing to give one purpose for existing must be a sad existence indeed. It is planted firmly in my mind now that if a person needs my assistance and it is within my power to act to assist, then I will do it. This is what keeps me pushing forward in the fire service. It is why I will gear up and walk into that burning building. Why I will hold pressure on that wound on the scene of a horrible automobile accident. I believe everyone that is in the armed forces, law enforcement, or any area of the medical field shares the same innate desire to help others, even if their specific why varies from person to person.
So now, I must ask you, reader, what is your why? What drives you to get up every day, and press forward with life? What drives you? It does not have to be a tragic event that has occurred to or near you. It just has to be something that will push you to carry on when you feel that you don’t have anything left in you. If you are not sure what your why is, take a long look at your motivations and your hopes. Find that drive and purpose within, then channel it on your own way to excellence.
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