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The Show Goes On

To My Brother and Sister First Responders,

Yesterday we celebrated my last day of active service with the Alsip Fire Department.  When all is said and done, I will have served just slightly over 25 years in this uniform.  Tomorrow will be different as I have worn some type of uniform that represented employment with either a federal, municipal, or private entity in service to others – dating back to my time in the Army.  I had many laughs and shed some tears as I experienced both the joys and pain of others.  At the end of it all, I learned 2 valuable lessons I wish to share with you all.

Everybody has stuff

From the day we arrive on this planet, the story of our destiny begins to unfold, and with it we begin to accumulate a personal story of both good and bad experiences.  This history follows us into the first responder world – some of which, may have already had a profound effect on our being.  There will always be one unwavering truth about our time spent here: there will always be multiple generations serving at the same time under our roof.

Welcome the new members to the first responder family with an open mind instead of with judgmental eyes as we so often tend to do.  I challenge you to meet them where they are at, get to know them as a person, and be the best mentor possible.  I am not saying that you have to be best friends, but at least observe him/her as they operate within their “norm”.  This will help you to recognize when things may not be going well and you can open a conversation with “Sit down my friend and tell me a story.”  You never know what kind of a response that statement will prompt, but it is well worth taking the time to do so.  Due diligence can change the life of one who is struggling.

Never Leave Behind Those Who Lift Us Up

We never enter this chosen path by ourselves, as most certainly we bring other stakeholders along with us on this journey to include: spouses, parents, significant others, and siblings.  It is our duty to make sure they are educated in what it is like to be a first responder.  You do not have to share every detail, about every call- just the nuts and bolts of the profession.  Why?  Because this job will profoundly change is some shape or form.

This is uber important especially if you begin to have struggles of your own (remember, the history you bring with you can compound this effect).  There are many peer support resources that currently exist that can help you plan in advance should you need it.  Our stakeholders need access to these organizations, and be granted permission (by you, the responder) to contact for assistance.  Your inner circle has the potential to travel with you on this journey for 20 (+) years – please do not leave them behind.

To those who follow after me – it’s your world now.  I leave you with an Eagles song that best captures the moment of this day.

Take care and be well always,


P.S. I am still going to be around doing peer support as this has made all the difference in my finding balance once again.

EMS Leadership Summit 2019

Illinois Firefighter Peer Support Symposium Speaker Wendy Lund will be featured in this year’s summit. This is a free online event for all who are interested in attending. Click on the link below for more information.

Symposium Call to Action

During the first ILFFPS Symposium we walked away with practical self-care tools that we could implement immediately as we returned to our daily lives. In this segment I issue a call to action for attendees and presenters to give feed back on how things are going 3 weeks post-conference.

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2019 Illinois Firefighter Peer Support Symposium

The first ever Illinois Firefighter Peer Support Symposium is now one for the history books.  As a team member and an attendee, I  offer you my observations and experiences.  

From the opening keynote address by Tom Howard, I could feel the positive energy rise in the room as he promised we would leave with practical solutions that could be implemented as both self-care strategies, and knowledge to be shared with our peers back home.  Tom- by my own personal experience, you succeeded in this mission.  A job well done to you and everyone behind the scenes who made this happen.

The common theme of this 2-day symposium was about self-care.  Often times, those whom are employed in the helping fields (first responders and peer support team members for the purpose of this discussion),  become so immersed in assisting others in need,  that the ability to take the time to (as Chris Marella said) ” just chill out” falls by the wayside.  Chilling out will be a unique definition for each individual, but I am highly confident that the information shared on Thursday and Friday has provided a framework to do so.   To be the most highly functioning version of ourselves, we must pause and be mindful  to the areas of our mind, body, and spirit that we frequently neglect:  sleep, nutrition, exercise, and the nurturing of interpersonal relationships with our peers, family members, and our individual self.

There were so many incredible speakers whose presentations I wanted to attend, but was limited on each day.  However, this “good problem” (to quote Tom Howard) had an excellent remedy.  Prior to the  afternoon breakout sessions on each day,  a panel was assembled where all presenters participated in a Q and A discussion on the following topics: Our Lives are not Singular (day 1),  and Post-traumatic Growth (day 2).

It was awesome to see how an instant rapport was created among a group of people that included both meaningful discussion and playful banter.   During these panel sessions, each presenter shared enough of the most authentic version of his/her self so that even if I could not attend their breakout session, it inspired me to reach out and connect with them to learn more about what they are doing to make this world a better place to live.

Personally, I call this first symposium a resounding success as I received what I was looking for in the arena of personal growth.  I hope that all who attended were equally as enriched.  We would love to hear your feedback, so please post to our Facebook page or email Tom at : as I am sure he would greatly appreciate it.  I leave you with a few images (courtesy of our FB page)  from this great 2- day conversation.  Until next time –

Be well and take care,




ILFFPS Symposium Speaker Jon Sanders

This week we here from Symposium speaker Jon Sanders:



Tell our readers a little bit about your own journey
I started my career in the fire service in 2000 with the Peoria (IL) Fire Department.  I worked there until 2004 when I transitioned into pastoral ministry.  My family and I moved to a rural community in South Dakota and planted a church.  (It’s a long story, but over the years we’ve seen the church grow and I continue to serve as the Lead Pastor to this day.)  I stayed connected to fire and EMS serving on my local volunteer fire department and ambulance for a few years after moving to South Dakota.  About 4 years ago, I had the opportunity to return to full-time firefighting with the City of Sioux Falls. After graduating the academy and starting my work as a firefighter with Sioux Falls Fire Rescue, I was invited to begin serving on our Peer Support Team.  I had the idea to launch a podcast that is solely dedicated to helping the first responder community in this realm.  I call it The Fire Inside Podcast.  My desire is to bring hope and encouragement to other first responders by sharing stories of people who have overcome various challenges and are now thriving with mental health and resiliency.  I feel like l have found a great intersection of my passion for the fire service and my skill set with public speaking and ministry.
Give us a short summary about the topic you will be presenting at the symposium
I have been asked to lead a breakout session dealing with the subject of how having an active faith can be advantageous when it comes to mental, emotional, and physical health and wellbeing.  I’m calling my presentation “Faith in the Fire Service: 7 Ways Personal Faith Produces Great Public Servants”.  I want to put a huge disclaimer out there that even though I’m a pastor, I’m not approaching this talk from a standpoint of preaching or “converting” anyone to MY personal faith.  This conversation will highlight how any personal faith walk can have huge positive implications for us personally, for our crews, and for the communities we serve.  I can’t promise that I won’t pass the offering plates when I’m done speaking though!  (Just kidding.  I just wanted to beat you to the punchline!)  Most of the content for my session will be presented from the findings of numerous scientific and medical studies that have been done looking at how people who actively practice some form of religion/spirituality fare much better in physical, mental, and emotional health than those who don’t have a personal faith practice.
Should someone attend your session, what is one take-away (they will learn) that can be implemented immediately?
Essentially, after presenting the findings and evidence, I’m going to bring my presentation down to the following action steps:
  • Embrace faith – both your own personal faith, and the faith of others.  Even if you’re not a “religious” person, you need to recognize how invaluable someone else’s personal faith may be for them.
  • Explore faith.  I’m going to challenge you to dig deeper into your faith – whatever that may look like for you personally.
  • Express your faith.  I’m not talking about being that awkward guy or gal who no one wants to talk to because you’re always trying to impose your personal beliefs upon others.  I’m simply going to challenge my audience to live out their faith in practical ways that actually make a positive difference in their personal life and in the lives of others.
I look forward to meeting a bunch of you at the symposium and I would love to have you join me for one of my sessions!

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