The ACW-Unionville (MI) Fire Department, where Lori Koepf’s husband works.
By Anne Gagliano
As I’ve written before, everywhere my husband Mike and I travel, we find that firefighters are all wonderfully the same. The same spirit of service, courage, and capability instantly identifies them as fellow firefighters. In the biggest of cities and in the smallest of towns, the heart of a firefighter beats strong and true and brave.
But as we dig deeper, delving into the fire departments we visit, behind-the-scenes heroes emerge who are just as wonderful and brave as the firefighters themselves: the fire spouses. They, of course, are often at our speaking gigs on firefighter marriage. And they, too, have a consistency of character that is inspiring to me as a longtime fire wife. The support and sacrifice of a spouse are unsung, often unnoticed but oh so needed for firefighters to do what they do. Firefighters need encouragement, but so too does the firefighter spouse. For those of you looking for ideas on how to give back to the spouses, to the families of our heroes, here is a wonderful example.
Lori Koepf of Sebewaing, Michigan, a seasoned vet of fire “wifery,” wrote a letter to Fire Engineering. This is what she had to say, and I am so honored to be sharing it with you now:
Every year our Fire Department has a recognition for the department firemen and gives out rewards. In years past I have always just made something small to give the wives to show some appreciation for their support. This year a lot of older firemen have retired, and I have watched young family men join. As my hubby has been on the fire department for 19 years and also became a fire instructor, I have endured much in order for him to fulfill his calling. I’ve never regretted it, but at times have come close. So this year, as I was looking for a wife appreciation gift to make, I decided to put down in poem form some of my feelings along the way in hopes of helping these young wives with many children who look lovely, and overwhelmed.
As I did this, I asked my now 34-year-old daughter if she remembered the day daddy left as the tones went off right after her ninth birthday candled cake was lit, and he left before we could sing, and she could blow out her candles. She said she remembered it and also shared that on that day, it hurt tons to see him choose the fire department over her birthday. But now, today, she is very proud of him for serving his community and keeping many lives safe. That helped to heal my hurts of many times like this, where I was left speechless and didn’t know what to do.
I was told that the poem I wrote (as my gift for the fire spouses) touched many hearts, and it was suggested that I share it for others to read as well. So, here is my poem:
Two Fire Heroes
The Tones go off,
Birthday candles lit,
Your daughter’s face aglow,
Why won’t those tones just quit!
Finally watching that movie,
Cuddling on the couch,
Him holding his training book,
My trying not to grouch!
Long hours on that fire run,
Many sleepless nights,
Very stressful calls,
Challenging his fight-or-flight!
Missing family parties,
Your schedules never matching,
Always explaining why he’s tardy!
How to address that teacher’s note,
Which bills to pay this week.
Keeping family running smoothly,
No time for us to Speak!
His emotional distance,
And worrying about his safety,
My constant loneliness,
Negative thoughts start to chase me!
Firefighters are not emotional,
It’s what makes them good at their job,
But I need his arms around me,
Remember, he is my heart throb!
On the fire he’s alive, alert, and energized,
At home, quiet, detached, and spent.
As he fulfills his calling,
I will support him 100%!
Many trainings, fires, and meetings,
Standing strong when he’s away,
Role of family man and fireman,
A pendulum that constantly sways!
Agreed, the fireman is a hero!
But the fire wife is too!
Behind every successful fireman,
Is a special wife with great value!
Lori’s poem touched my heart, and I hope it touches yours. I too have experienced the feelings she describes in clever prose, and I’m sure many other fire spouses have as well. Hearing it from others, then taking the time to thoughtfully weave that shared experience into poetry as a gift—what a wonderful way to cheer and support and encourage! The fire service rewards its members, as it should, but it would be nice if more took the time to reward the spouses as well. It doesn’t have to be fancy or difficult or expensive to do so. Lori’s poem is a lovely, sweet example that didn’t take a ton of money, flashing lights, or mass production. It’s simply from the heart, and because of this it resonates.
There truly are two heroes in every fire department across the land: the one standing bravely in front, facing danger to save others, and the one standing quietly in the shadows, ready to hold that firefighter close when he or she comes home. I hope you’ll find ways to appreciate and recognize and celebrate both.
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.