The fire service is an occupation like none other. It is one of brotherhood, sacrifice, and courage. It is a second family that you are grafted into the day you become a firefighter. As a firefighter you work many hours acquiring your necessary certifications, degrees, and work hard to maintain a level of combat readiness mentally & physically. A firefighter who is truly passionate about his or her calling possesses the ability to influence, change, and positively impact other lives.
But then there is the dark side of our ambition that is not often talked about…
As you progress through your career you begin to work harder at making a difference and your efforts begin to pay off. You are well-respected, teach/train/mentor others, and you are highly sought after for your expertise. The trouble lies in the earlier statement: The fire department is your second family. Approximately 75% (9 out of 12) of firefighters will suffer a divorce.
Many of us came into the fire service with a loving family who have supported us, encouraged us, and watched after our children while we worked, went to school, or while we were “improving the fire service”. So why is it that we as firefighters, who took an oath to lay down our lives for the public if necessary, have forgotten about our families at home? Are not our spouse & children our greatest investment? Aren’t they our “crew”? Are they not the reason “everyone goes home”? As scripture states “you have forgotten your first love”.
We spend thousands of hours perfecting our craft, becoming certified, and working to be the best that we can be. How many hours are we dedicating to learning to be a good husband/wife and a good father/mother? How much time are we spending with our family where are mind is truly on them? Is your mind elsewhere?
We are taught that if we are distracted we can make mistakes on the fire-ground. We preach situational awareness, taking pride in what you do, and not becoming complacent. Why is it we not practicing what we preach at home? The statistical data proves that we are at a greater risk for heart attack, cancer, and several other occupationally related illnesses. And that data shows that we are at a much greater risk of divorce than anyone else. So why are we putting the cart before the horse?
My friends, the answer lies in our priorities & core values. Your core values determine who you are. You are a good firefighter because of your values such as: integrity, compassion, courage, honor, honesty, etc. These core values where (hopefully) instilled in you by your family. If you believe in God, as I do, then your priorities are to be: God, family, then your fire department family, and others. You are to work so that you may live. You should not “live to work”. If your priorities are out of order you will one day find yourself staring at retirement papers wondering if you will be able to live without this job. When you leave this earth you leave behind two things: your word & your children.
Being a firefighter means you are never off duty. Your drive to serve your fellow man goes deeper than any patch, badge, or title that man can bestow upon you. The commitment to your calling as a firefighter should be based on the depth of your great love for your family at home and your desire to go home safely to them.
In closing, remember we are blessed with two families. Keep “your home” family first & your fire department family second and your house will always remain in order. Let’s practice what we preach at home and at work.
“Just as firefighters are willing to rescue someone from a
burning building, Christian firefighters must be willing to come to the aid of hurting
firefighters before their marriages end in divorce.” Dr. James Dobson
Stay safe & God Bless,
Andy J. Starnes