They answer the calls for help, running toward the chaos when most folks run away, receiving little in the way of payment for their efforts.
They all know danger comes with their pledge to help, but somehow they manage to do the duties anyway.
A harsh lesson on just how dangerous it can be was taught to the Louise firefighting volunteers last week when two of their own went to the hospital rather than the station after a call.
One never made it home.
And, as painful as the loss of one man is to his family, his church, his friends and community, it’s bigger than that.
The loss of that one man reaches far beyond the Louise-Hillje community, tolling through the ranks of volunteers in Wharton County, South Texas and the nation.
Because no matter where you are or who you are, when the worst day of your life happens and you start to believe all hope is lost, they show up. With the help of others, they give you a chance to somehow make it through the night.
They are literally the lifesavers at times, even when those efforts put their own lives in peril.
That makes those folks pretty dern special in my book.
So, in addition to saying a sad farewell to one man who died helping his community and doing the unpaid job he loved to do, we, the public have one more task this week.
This week is a really good time to say thank you to the rest of these men and women of the volunteer fire service, those riding on the ambulance crews and in law enforcement.
From the ones who pick up the phones and listen to you scream for help, to the ones who cut through the wrecked car, stop the bleeding and tell you it’s going to be alright, to the ones who keep the streets safe, they all face things daily that you probably would not want to deal with in a lifetime.
And they are all literally just a phone call away, right here in El Campo, right over there in Louise, in Danevang, Glen Flora, Egypt, Wharton and all those other towns in all the other counties in the state and the nation.
There’s no way to predict when the next one may be put in jeopardy, even when we’re still trying to say good-bye to one good man.
“Firemen never die, they just burn forever in the hearts of the people whose lives they saved,” according to Susan Diane Murphree.
And you have to admit, if you’ve ever been in one of those “worst day ever” situations, you know you’ll never forget when they somehow made it better, the proverbial shining light.
Sure, that’s a little more metaphysical than I normally even consider voicing as an opinion, but sometimes you’ve just got to break out the allusions.
It sure sounds prettier than saying, “Go on. Try walking in their shoes. I dare you. They’re always looking for volunteers. If not, just say thank you, I reckon they’ve more than earned that.”
– Shannon Crabtree is editor & publisher of the El Campo Leader-News.