As most of you probably already know, this book was inspired by a real firefighter, Larry Kraus, whose line of duty service made a moving impression on my brother who shared it with me. I realized this service and the reason for it was a story that needed to be told. This book is special to me not just because the fire service and its brotherhood are so awesome but because firefighters – whether they realized it or not – enhanced the book through their numerous, true “stories behind the story” contributions.
As a prime example, the picture accompanying this post is of myself and Captain Jeremy Wolfe at the first book signing for Fully Involved in Abilene, TX. Jeremy wrote an eloquent, heartfelt email to my brother in honor of my brother’s retirement from the Abilene Fire Department after 35 years of service. Jeremy’s email was so moving, I asked him if I could use it in my book. He generously agreed. The letter Andy wrote to his fellow firefighters is an adaptation of that email.
Another example is the line of duty service and fire service traditions described and quoted at the graveside. The words read by Chaplain MacShane in the story were written by Chaplain Chris Hale with the Abilene Fire Department. I know the ringing of the bell at a line of duty service is observed throughout the fire service but using the words written by Chaplain Hale in this instance added a depth that would have otherwise been lacking.
Some of the behavior around the fire station was gleaned from stories told by my brother and my nephew who is also a firefighter. “Hey, Beautiful,” the guys call out when Andy and Katie call each other is typical. And how about the wedding reception story Andy recounted where they tapped out a fire that happened during a wedding reception? Well, that’s a true story too. It happened to my brother, and they really did take picture with the bride and groom.
And sadly, firefighters do die in the line of duty from cancer, and the number is growing rapidly. Thankfully, more stringent physicals are being given firefighters in cities across the country because early detection is so crucial. The more that can be done preemptively will help save lives that otherwise might be lost.
If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll pick up a copy of Fully Involved to read and discover more of these real “stories behind the story.” And please, don’t forget to let a firefighter know how much they’re appreciated for what they do, the risks they take and for what they’re willing to do at any given time.
Until next time – Keep It Goin . . . .