While sitting in a doctor’s waiting room one time, I struck up a conversation with a young man and his mother. One bit of conversation led to another and I soon knew that he was a firefighter, and not just any firefighter, a professional firefighter. I learned this because when he said he was a PROFESSIONAL firefighter I replied, “Oh, you may have encountered my son sometime then, he is a firefighter too.” And that is when the young man asked, “is he a professional or just a volunteer?” Trying to hide the grin I felt creeping onto my lips I very solemnly answered, “He’s just a volunteer.”
My new-found buddy wanted to know what department my son was on and I told him that he volunteers for the Bay fire department, to which he shrugged his shoulder and said, “I probably wouldn’t know him then.”
“Well,” I mused, “you might have encountered him at a meeting of the Arkansas State Firefighters Association, do you ever attend those?” No, he hadn’t attended a convention, though he wanted to go sometime. I then asked him if he had taken any classes at the Fire Academy and yes, of course, he had taken many classes there and planned to take more. So I asked him if he had ever had Kevin McMasters for an instructor and he had. That’s my son, I told him. He instructs for the fire academy and also for Arkansas State University in their Disaster Preparedness Emergency Management classes.
The young man looked at me with big round eyes and asked, “Is Kevin really your son?” And I told him, “Yes, Kevin is really my son. He has a Master’s Degree in DPEM and an Applied Science (Firefighting) Bachelor’s Degree and some other degrees and is President of the Arkansas State Firefighters Association and he teaches lots of professional firefighters how to do their job and stay alive while doing it, but you are right, in our little town of 1800 he is a volunteer firefighter.
Then I turned to him a gently asked, “Do you know of any men who were drafted against their will into the firefighting service? And if they weren’t drafted, but voluntarily entered the service, aren’t all firefighters volunteers?” Then I suggested that perhaps the term full-time firefighter might be a better description of his work than professional firefighter because I don’t know any firefighters who aren’t professional.
The discussion ended there because I was called back to see the doctor.
I’m proud of my firefighter and of all the others I know who so selflessly dedicate their lives to protecting the lives and property of strangers. The pay is meager, the thanks are few and far between, the nights get long and hard, the terrible sights encountered are sometimes more than anyone should have to witness. Yet these stalwart men and women keep responding to those calls for help, no matter what time of day or night, and they keep their sense of humor and their dedication to help intact.
I have told my son that when he is teaching a class about rescuing people and pets from a house he needs to teach his students to do what Jesus would do: If you have to make a choice to save him or her, save her, and if it is a choice between saving the cat or the dog, do what Jesus would do, save the dog. I don’t know if he has ever taught that in class but he was given those instructions by his mom.
I’ll share a poem here that my son wrote about firefighting that I think says it very well. But then, I’m his mom and I think he says everything very well, or most things, well, some things.
God bless our firefighters!
April 15, 2015
DRAGONSLAYERS By Kevin W. McMasters
A rookie firefighter asked a veteran one day,
“What caused you to enter this game that we play?
Why wear all the turnouts? They’re hot and they stink,
It’s a sad thankless job, I’ll quit it I think!”
“See here you rookie,” the old veteran said,
“Hear this old story, think it thru in your head
You see long ago, in times gone bye
When old dragonslayers, rode ‘neath the sky,
They donned their armor, of chain mail and steel,
this safety was something, they needed to feel.
Mounted on horse, with sword and with lance
Against the fierce dragon, they took every chance.
Their feet were shod, with metal that clanked
Today its rubber, with steel in the shank.
Against all dragons, from childhood they trained
Their bodies, their hearts, their souls and their brains.
Against dragon’s fire, they wore their steel link
But Nomex and canvas are better, I think.
Their helmets of iron, to deflect dragons breath,
For without their helmet, they’d meet dragon’s death.
Now helmets of plastic, and kevlar are said,
Protection from harm, the best for your head,
With visor held down, shielding their face
Dragonslayers protect, the whole human race.
Now pike poles and axes, have taken the place
of the old dragonslayers sword, lance and mace.
Yet today some will mock, they’ll scoff and they’ll sneer
No things such as dragons, so why volunteer?
Well, ask the next fireman, you happen to see
“Do dragons exist?” And, ”Where can they be?”
His smile and reply, they both come at once
They lurk all around us, behind and in front.
How can you say, no dragons there are ?
They’re in all these buildings, all wildlands and cars..
These dragons they hide, to most eyes unseen
But the smallest of sparks will soon loose the fiend.
Raging and roaring, his lair all ablaze,
the dragon will trouble, our nights and our days.
We’ll see him kill children, our families, and friends
For dragons great hunger, it just never ends.
When battling small dragons, with ease so it seems,
No one recalls the huge dragons screams,
Thru heat, smoke, and burning, the battle is waged,
By young dragonslayers of your size, and age.
Remember this rookie, as thru life you pass
We dragonslayers walk, a dangerous path,
And be sure you remember, each night in your prayers,
All modern firefighters, THE NEW DRAGONSLAYERS