When we think about heroes the list is endless: Batman, Robin, Spiderman, Hulk, Iron Man, Wonder Woman, The Justice League of America, and so on. How about sports figures: Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Nolan Ryan, Reggie Jackson, Derrick Jeter, etc. As kids (past and present) our list was endless as to who we wanted to be like, especially if they were a key player in either stopping the bad guys or winning a world championship. Alas, we are all grown up and yet we will still hold on to these fond memories for time and eternity. As first responders, we are often viewed as heroes to this world. This begs the question: Who are the real heroes to the men and women who pin on the badge?
To me the answer is quite simple: our personal heroes should be the ones who have endured great sacrifice while standing side-by-side with us during what can inevitably be a career wrought with a rollercoaster of emotions-our spouses or significant others. It is no secret to anyone who has heard me speak about my wife Judy as being my best friend in the whole, wide world. She really is my true personal hero as she withstood the litmus test of time during my 16 year battle with post-traumatic stress. A lesser person might have walked away, but not Judy-she stood strong through it all and I love her deeply for her support. Be that as it may, even our personal heroes have their kryptonite.
Not everyone may be blessed as I am to have married a woman so strong. I do not have the latest statistics on divorce rates amongst first responders, but I bet it hovers around 50% (if anyone can correct me-please do so). I think many of who joined ILFFPS, can concur that we had to learn the hard way because discussions about behavioral health issues was not the norm when we first started. Therefore, there were very few places that either ourselves or significant others could turn to for help. Thankfully, someone recognized this need and answered the call: Colleen Murphy.
Colleen, the wife of an Aurora firefighter, is the Family and Significant Other Program Coordinator for the ILFFPS team. She is also a mom and hair stylist who recognized a segment population in the first responder world was sorely underserved- that being herself and others just like her. Colleen lived in this world for 10 plus years before she answered the call. Even though she got it as a firefighter’s wife, she felt there was still so much to learn and understand about those that go Mach two with their hair on fire all the time. To better prepare herself, Colleen was a student in Sarah’s Firefighter Psychological Support Therapist class and did very well according to her instructor. This past January, Colleen and Matt held the first formal significant other class at Alsip which was well-received by all who attended.
If you have never had the opportunity to meet Colleen, I encourage you to do so. She is both a highly intelligent and intuitive person who is very much tuned into our world. You can find her contact information on our team website to schedule a presentation for your department. The significant other class is a few hours well spent for both you and your personal hero (if you view them this way), and they will thank you for it. Remember, they have their breaking point just like us. They are the real heroes in this world. Until next time: