It has been just over 13 years ago now that I was injured as a volunteer firefighter while engaging a wildfire near my hometown at the time. As I laid in my hospital bed asking what happened, many people gave their opinions, quick anecdotal answers, and life experience. Without fail, they always justified their comments by saying, “there was nothing you could have done” or “it’s fire, it just happens.” I knew in my heart and mind that they were trying to make me feel better, but the reality was clear they didn't have any more answers than I did to why I got hurt that hot April day. Instead of feeling better, I struggled. Struggled with what I had done wrong, what I should have done different, why I did everything right and still got hurt.
On the third week of my hospital stay a young man pushed in a pastor friend of mine who was recovering from a stroke. The pastor induced him as Dave, a wildland firefighter, and that we might have some stuff to talk about. Dave and I started talking and without either of us knowing, the pastor snuck out of the room leaving Dave and I to talk. Turns out, Dave was more than a wildland firefighter, he was a fire behavior analyst. As we talked I was able to ask questions and he was able to give me the straight forward and sometimes hard to hear answers. In the weeks after we met, he sat down with me and helped me go through the computer modeling so I could see exactly why I got hurt and what I did right and what I did wrong. Without what Dave did for me I would still be asking those questions. I was able to get closure on that part of my injuries.
Fast forward 11 years and questions were still coming up. Questions I did not anticipate or quiet frankly know how to handle. So I did what everyone does, I started asking around wondering if someone had some answers. The trouble with these questions is that they were dealing with the emotional injuries I was either still recovering from, or in some cases, was still finding. Just like after I got hurt, people gave their opinions, quick anecdotal answers, and life experience. But this time, without fail, they ended their thoughts with statements to my questions like, “you just need to get over it or that’s in the past you need to move on.” Needless to say, this only made things worse.
It wasn't until one day at a local bait shop that I ran into a guide named Chuck who takes wounded veterans out fishing, that again life began to change for the better. Chuck had some of the answers to my questions and found me someone who had even more answers. Chuck did two things that the others didn’t. First, he listened before I started talking. He knew I was struggling before I ever opened my mouth or asked a question. Second, he didn't make up answers and found someone who had the answers. This gave me the hope I needed to keep working through the emotional struggles I have daily.
Last week I had the opportunity to go fishing with a group of guys who made a huge impact on my life. Healing Patriots is a group of guys who have been there, asked a lot of the same questions I have and found the resources they needed and I that have desperately been looking for. What they did for me emotionally on this fishing trip was no different than what Dave did for me while I was in the hospital. They answered my questions honestly and started giving me the tools to work through the struggles I am having. They did this without placing blame on me for struggling, unlike many others I have asked for help from.
I am writing this for two reasons: first, if you have struggles in life there is hope. It’s discouraging and even seems hopeless when you ask questions and you are blown off or condemned for even asking the questions you are struggling with. The answers are out there and there is hope. Secondly, when people come to you with life questions don’t make up answers, give anecdotes and tell them to get over it; that only makes it worse. Give them the truth and if you don't know what it is, help them find the people that do know the truth. The real answers are powerful and life changing. Here is just one example: since the day I got hurt I have asked why people would call me a hero if I was the guy who fell off a fire truck and had to get rescued? Last week I got to ask a combat veteran that question. First thing he did is give me a hug and then he said, “Geremy, you are a hero because you got on the truck in the first place.” This is just one of the answers that changed my life and gave me a new perspective and hope. There is power in having the questions in our life answered regardless if those answers are good or bad because not knowing the answers is one of the most difficult things for people to handle.
Outdoorsman, Producer, Firefighter & Public Speaker