Gratitude November 01 2017, 4 Comments

Guest blog written by Capt. Mike Yetter of MDFR

“The heaviest debt is that of gratitude; When ‘tis not in our power to repay it.”

-Benjamin Franklin

A few years ago I was at our annual firehouse holiday party when I was approached by the mother of one the guys on my crew. After the introduction, the fireman walked away leaving his mother and I alone.  As I worried for a moment about what we would talk about, she jumped right in, capitalizing on the opportunity to talk to me.   

She said, “It's about time we finally met.”  She had heard so much about me.

Paranoid that the, ‘what happens on the truck, stays on the truck’ doctrine had been compromised,’ I worried over the uncountable things I could be explaining to her in the next few moments.

Mom quickly diffused my fear with what she said next. “I want to thank you for taking care of my baby.” Looking at me directly, she said.  “He speaks very highly of you and it’s very comforting to know that he is being looked after.”  After a moment she must have realized that I was incapable of a response.  She smiled up at me and gave me a hug.  I had been left both humbled and speechless.


The moment passed and we shared small talk for a few minutes more before we went our separate ways.  Afterwards, when I had time to reflect, I realized the thank you and that hug was recognition of an officer’s most sacred responsibility—taking care of a mother’s child.  That moment has meant more to me than any accolade or medal I’ve ever received.

Do you know what it's like to be thanked by one of your crew’s family members?

Have you considered the weight of that gratitude?

Until you have, I don't think it is possible to fully comprehend the true responsibility placed upon you.  Simply put, you are entrusted by the families of your crew to make sure that each member comes home safe after every tour.

Even if you haven’t considered this, you should know that this very presumption is always there.


Just as responsibility precedes privilege; the debt of gratitude obligates each and every one of us to earn it. We earn it by remaining vigilant and by being proactive with our methods and understanding of our profession.

Josiah Charles Stamp (1880-1941), an English Economist once said, “It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities.”

One can only wonder how many LODD’s could be attributed to, in some part, to someone whose complacency assisted in the catastrophic chain of events leading up to the loss of a brother or sister. Have you grown sluggish in something as simple as stretching a line smoothly, forcing a door efficiently, or timely weighing the risk/benefits as you step off the rig on a fire scene?  Any delays in attacking the fire are inversely proportional to the integrity of the structure being attacked by the fire.  Will complacency in your day to day actions open the door to tragedy when your moment comes?

On scene, we have all assumed the responsibility for not only each other's lives, but for maintaining the expectations of our members’ families as well. That responsibility is fulfilled daily with competence in executing our respective tasks on an emergency scene. Through training we can maintain situational awareness in reading the fire ground and achieve precision in completing our tasks and objectives appropriately.  Performing our individual duties in concert enables the greatest chance of success. And our greatest chance of success lies in constant training and vigilance.

If you are assumed to be worthy enough to earn a ‘thank you’ from your crew member’s mother, then you must be equally diligent enough to earn that thank you each and every day.

-Capt. Mike Yetter MDFR

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