Fire Life

Getting Ready for the Big Show: FDIC International 2018

By Anne Gagliano

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you this special edition of my column, as Indy is coming, and it just can’t wait. I was going to continue with pornography this week, but it’ll still be there when we get back. So, look for Is Pornography Harmless? Part 2 down the line as I indulge myself on a favorite topic: FDIC.

My husband Mike and I are gearing up for the big show. We leave Sunday, April 22, and will be spending a whole week in Indianapolis. Can’t believe it’s here. The older you get the faster time marches along, but in the case of FDIC International, that’s a good thing. For those of you who have never gone, let me try to explain why this is so. It’s very hard to put into words what’s so special about FDIC International; it’s an experience that defies explanation. The best thing I can come up with is this: For the firefighter (and in my case, those who love a firefighter), FDIC International is a shot in the arm. It’s a jolt of adrenaline that reminds you what it is that makes the fire service so incredibly awesome. The best of the best gather from all corners of the globe to celebrate this amazing profession and to learn and grow from the collective wisdom presented there. Inspiring, fun, and educational, FDIC International helps you forget, at least for a while, all your problems and cares as you celebrate life among those who see it largely the same way you do. And this is done by remembering three primary things:

Remembering the firefighter. At FDIC International, the wonder of the fire service is front and center, displaying larger than life what it is to be a firefighter–the good, the bad, the ugly, but mostly the good. This is more than refreshing—as said before, it is a shot in the arm. For this longtime firefighter couple, it is especially so, as the problems of the fire department can sometimes start to smother the fire–that spark of passion, that enthusiasm you once had that is threatened by poor leadership and politics and budget constraints (the bad stuff). But at Indy, the good stuff gets to shine and re-spark that flame in your heart that makes you love serving once again. This is done mostly by being around the people there: the attendees who strive to learn and improve and the instructors who pour heart and soul into their classes with the hopes of saving the savers by making them better at what they do. These people are electric and magnetic, their enthusiasm contagious. And it spills into the streets of the city as the entire populace seems to be adorned in navy blue. Bagpipes can be heard almost anywhere, and the music is sweet. The haunting chords rise above the traffic with their distinct sounds, which represent a noble service, a higher way of life: the firefighter.

Remembering the fallen. At FDIC International, we get a chance to properly acknowledge and mourn the loss of the year’s fallen firefighters. It is painful to do but healing as well, for nowhere else on earth is a firefighter’s sacrifice more appreciated. This year will be particularly tough as we collectively say goodbye to Chief Alan Brunacini, the beloved leader who changed the shape of the fire service and upon whose mighty shoulders many stand tall today. Mike was as heartbroken as I’ve ever seen him when we learned of Bruno’s passing this past fall. Ironically, we were standing in a graveyard in Charleston, South Carolina, reading the tombstones of signers of the Declaration of Independence. Awe inspired to be in such mighty presences—the fallen founders of our nation—it suddenly seemed a fitting place for Chief Brunacini, the legendary hero of the fire service. As tears ran down our cheeks we thought, “He should be buried here.”

Remembering the family. What makes this profession so unique and so special is aptly stated by Chief John Mittendorf when he says this, “The fire service is like the military in that we eat together, sleep together, and sometimes die together.”  This makes us family–brothers and sisters who share life’s simple routines and death’s fatal blows. It is an inexplicable bond that grows and is strengthened in your local department then celebrated and expanded to an international level at FDIC. But for my small part this year, I will be there to represent the other aspect that makes firefighters better able to do what they do: their family at home. Both Mike and I will be teaching “Challenges of the Firefighter Marriage” and debuting our book of the same title. I am beyond terrified to be an FDIC International instructor, as the bar is set so incredibly high, but two things are giving me the courage to at least attempt it: One, Mike will be co-teaching with me, and he’s so good he makes even the likes of me seem adequate; and two, I really love firefighters with all my heart. Even more so than them, I love their families. I know what it is to worry through the night for my beloved’s safety. I know how it feels to see him struggle with the “tough runs.”  And I know how exasperating it can be when he comes home in “fix-it” mode and tries to “fix” me. All these things and more I have navigated over the years, and I hope to help others do so as well. Because with a loving spouse at his side, a firefighter can do more, be more, and sustain more than without one. FDIC is all about family; but the firefighter has two, not just one. I hope to encourage firefighters to keep their first family first so that they can have both without losing either.

FDIC International 2018—I can’t hardly wait for that shot in the arm, for the joy of it all, and for the reunion of the greatest folks on earth. Hope to see you there!

If you’re interested in my new book, check it out here:


Anne Gagliano has been married to Captain Mike Gagliano of the Seattle (WA) Fire Department for 32 years. She and her husband lecture together on building and maintaining a strong marriage.