We need to start doing better. We need to learn how to support one another instead of tearing each other down. In a world where the only way out is through, it’s important to back up our brothers and sisters instead of pushing them out of the way to reach the top.
My name is Emily Agruss. I am a former military and fire wife. On September 9, 2016, my husband, Joshua Agruss, passed away following a fatal relapse of his addiction to prescription pain medication. Josh experienced a lot of trauma in his 33 years of life – much of it related to his time serving our country in Iraq and working as a firefighter and paramedic. The cultural norms of our society are currently placing a mostly negative stigma on the heroes of our nation not to seek help when they are struggling. As a direct result of this, my husband suffered in silence with symptoms of severe post-traumatic stress for many years. He never felt safe enough to ask for help. He lived in constant fear of being determined unfit for duty, being harassed for not being able to “suck it up” and from losing his job and the ability to help others – the one thing that got him out of bed each morning. This mentality is what is destroying the lives of countless individuals. It’s what is leaving thousands of spouses and children without a husband/wife and father/mother. Continue reading “For the Sake of Our Nation’s Heroes ~ A Widow’s Story”→
There will come a day when your son or daughter will find that photo of you that we all have had taken when we joined or made Class “A” status or got promoted. You know the one where you look somewhat awkward with your hat tipped to far back and you weren’t sure if you were supposed to smile or not. Yeah, that one. It’s been a few years since anybody has looked at that picture. It got put away and buried deep in a closet in a box with some of the other stuff that you use to have on the mantle or hanging on the wall in the den. Maybe a few awards, old helmet, group shot of you and the crew.
Your child was younger back then, and never saw that stuff displayed. He or she is older now. Today, he finds that box, takes out the picture and looks at it intently. He takes a look at you. Then back to the picture of you in your class “A”. With a puzzled look, he turns to you and asks, “Daddy? When you used to be a fireman were you brave? And Daddy, how come you’re not a fireman anymore?” What will your answer be? Continue reading ““Daddy, were you brave? And how come you’re not a fireman anymore?””→
An open letter to a friend who is struggling with addiction.
I think of you often. Tonight, I decided to put my thoughts on paper.
When I was in my early forties, I was a young wife and mother with three small children. Due to circumstances at that time, I planned my suicide because I thought that everyone would be better off without me. I felt hopeless. Helpless. I believed I was a failure. To my children. To my husband. To everyone I loved.
That changed one morning. I was determined to make something of my life. I vowed that I would never let anyone suffer alone with depression without offering them my help.
I know your life On earth was troubled And only you could know the pain You weren’t afraid to face the devil You were no stranger to the rain
Oh, how we cried the day you left us We gathered round your grave to grieve ~ Go Rest On the Mountain lyrics, Vince Gill
Although Tim Casey and I had never met in person, we had a long-standing friendship through emails and phone calls. Several years ago, I received his first email. He had attached an article he wrote about his struggles as a firefighter; the nightmares, his addiction to alcohol, and his suicide attempt. He wanted to share his story in an effort to touch one firefighter, officer or other first responder who was struggling with these same demons. He felt it was his duty as someone in recovery to tell them “help is available”.
Thank you, Tim, for your friendship and your efforts to help your brothers and sisters. May you find peace, at last, on that mountain.
A very close friend of mine encouraged me to visit the Warrior’s Heart website, and review them as a potential first responder facility for addiction and post traumatic stress. I called the 800 number and was pleasantly surprised to be speaking with Josh, a co-founder. He gave me a clear and concise description of their mission as well an overview of the day-to-day activities at Warrior’s Heart. I knew in my heart that I was talking with someone genuine. This place is something very special.
When I was a younger man, I took an oath to protect and serve my fellows. I wore a shiny badge on my chest, a bullet-proof vest, and carried a powerful weapon. At academy, I was at the top of my class, a squad leader, and an expert shot. I wore a blue uniform and polished black boots. I loved my job. We had codes for this, and codes for that, we had our own language. We were a special breed!
Some guys thought they were John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, or “The Rock.” Some were close to retirement, bitter, and gray. Others were young, inquisitive, and active. To some it was just a job, and for others it was a calling. The older guys had a tendency to look at every citizen as if they were all criminals. I guess they had seen the bad side of human beings for far too long. Some thought they were above the law, and better than other men. Me, I was the rookie! My main job was to get the older guys coffee at first. That wasn’t what I had signed on to do!
One fall evening I was sitting at the front desk with an icepack on my left knee. I had taken down a three hundred and fifty pound man during a scuffle to arrest him, earlier in the shift. I smashed my left knee on the road as I subdued him. Just then a call came in that there was a house fire near the station. I forgot all about my knee and sprung into action. My partner and I headed to the scene. Continue reading “They Called Us Heroes”→
Heading down a dark path, I’ve had my moments of crying, screaming and wishing I were dead. Moments of remembering it all, trying to take it all back and drowning out the pain.
I often think about whom I would be if I didn’t take the same path; if I didn’t make the same choices.
What if I hadn’t chosen this career? What if I hadn’t seen the things I’ve seen or endured the trauma and the pain that I have? What if I hadn’t self-medicated? Who would I be today? Continue reading “Who Would I Be?”→
You’re just a dispatcher. You know nothing, and you see nothing, so it can’t bother you.
Really? Dispatchers don’t see anything. They should all be fine.
These are just some of the things many dispatchers are told during their careers. On the surface, these comments may sound reasonable, logical, and correct. After all, they spend eight to twelve hours a day answering phones and responding to the radio, how bad could it be?
We are inside, typically in a climate-controlled environment. We can utilize a restroom when needed. We don’t get stuck on long perimeters. And we lack the face-to-face contact with the community we serve. It sounds easy…it sounds like the secretary that so many like to define us as being. Continue reading “Just a Dispatcher”→