The photo above is from the U.S. Marine Corps Museum depicting a World War I Marine in hand-to-hand combat with a German soldier during the Battle of Belleau Wood in France on June 6, 1918.
Why this photo? Because my quest to become a firefighter was a struggle.
Last week I wrote about finding my father on the floor after he had suffered his fifth and final heart attack. I described how the television show Emergency and the book, Report From Engine Co. 82 influenced my life. I also wrote about a volunteer firefighter in my hometown named Frenchie and how he took me under his wing when I began to hang out at our local firehouse.
My interest in the fire service and desire to become a firefighter was fed by an annual publication called The Visiting Fireman. This publication listed firefighters and fire buffs around the world, had photos, short articles, and a classified/swap ad section. I was writing to firefighters around the world and trading for any type of memorabilia I could get my hands on.
The black sheep of the family
My dad had quit high school so he could support his widowed mother and he joined the military during the Korean War. He later earned his GED and started attending night school earning college credit. Consequently, he wanted my brother and I to attend college.
My dad never knew how much I wanted to be a firefighter, but my mom knew, and she did not like it. Although she never frowned on me hanging out at the firehouse, she kept pushing for me to attend college instead of being a firefighter or joining the military (both of those were two goals I had).
Seeing that she could not influence me away from the fire service, my mother took the following three steps:
- She sent me to speak with a family friend named Allen. Sitting in his basement, Allen said, “Ricky, your mother doesn’t want you to be a fireman and you need to honor that. Besides, you’re too short and you have glasses.” I liked Allen, but I respectfully told him that I was going to pursue my dream.
- My next stop was to see my Uncle Jim who tried to push me towards the police department instead. I told him I wanted to be a firefighter and not a police officer. Sitting at his kitchen table he said, “Ricky, those guys down at the fire department are no good and if you become a fireman you’ll be the black sheep of the family!” I did what any wise guy kid from Jersey would do and I made the sound of a sheep. He threw me out of his house.
- Seeing her first two attempts at thwarting my career desires fail, my mother did something that really ticked me off. She made an appointment for me at the Cumberland County Guidance Center to see a shrink. Sitting in his office, my own mother told this guy that I was a pyromaniac because I wanted to be a firefighter. I couldn’t believe it! He asked me a few questions, looked at her and said, “Lady! This boy wants to be a fireman and there is nothing wrong with him!”
What happened next?
If you have any sense of curiosity, you are wondering what happened next. A lot happened after that, but you will have to wait until next week to hear more of this story.
In the meantime, if there is a career that you want to pursue, then do it! Regardless of what the Allen’s, Uncle Jim’s, and other family members think. Is it a struggle to get to where you want to be? Absolutely! But the struggle is worth it.
Why am I telling my story?
My reason for writing this series of blogs is to lay a foundation for rebranding my business. Through the month of March, I will build on this story and when I’m through, you will see the passion that I have for the fire service and my desire to work with and develop fire officers. At the end of this series, I will reveal the new name of my business and the URL of my new website.