Greg is a young firefighter with a few years of EMT service and Fire experience under his belt. He has just started a new rookie year after completing another fire academy. Greg was gracious enough to spend some time with me to share his story. He opens up about his childhood, his background and experiences in Fire and EMS, as well as the work he’s put in to overcome struggles.
Stack: Thank you for joining me for another episode of the things we all carry. This week, I sit down with Greg . Greg comes to us from Minnesota. He’s a young firefighter with a few years of EMT and fire experience under his belt. He has just started a new rookie year after completing another fire academy.
Greg was gracious enough to spend some time with me to share his story. He opens up about his childhood, his background and experiences in fire and EMS, as well as the work he’s put in to overcome struggles. A quick reminder to please help us build a community which not only recognizes, but supports each other through the struggles and recovery.
I reach out through Instagram @thethingsweallcarry. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org . To offer support and share your story. Please remember to leave a review on iTunes and give a shout out to any first responder, you know, love or care about. Y’all enjoy the show. . Perfect. So, and it’ll pick up any other vocal ticks lake.
I like to say so, so it’s been picking that up and it’s driving me crazy when I say it right now. all right. Today, we’re sitting down with Greg he’s outta Minnesota. Greg’s been of EMT for four years. He finds himself a rookie once again he’s moved fire departments and he’s trying to improve his quality of life through a better schedule.
And I’ll let him talk about his family life. Then we’ll get into some of his background with the fire department I’ll let him talk about where he is at now, and we’ll move on from there. . So Greg, welcome to the show, how you doing?
Greg: Pretty good. Thank you for having me
Stack: go for it, man.
I’m gonna edit out mistakes anyway. So just go ahead and talk about family life, a little where you came from and all
Greg: of that. Gotcha. Yeah, so I was born in New Hampshire. The youngest of eight my mother and father divorced when I was three. Before that my dad was a extreme alcoholic, drunk, used to beat my mom.
So dealing with that as a young child, kinda through. Dynamics my mom and them decided to split more. My mom decision than his we moved about two, three years after they split my mom that met another guy took on the stepdad role was to get there for 13 years. And then out of, out of the blue they just split.
He wanted to move back to the east coast and at the time we were in Florida my mom didn’t want to, so she said I’m done. I’m not done traveling then. I don’t know, another year or so. My mom met what became my stepdad. They were married for 15 years. We just lost him a year ago, this June.
Sorry to hear that, man. Thank you. That was unexpected. If we knew it was our was gonna be our last father’s day together, I think we would’ve gotten more photos of him and the grandkids and of us kids with him, but nobody knew just woke up one morning. I called off work for some kind of reason.
And my mom woke me up. She’s Hey, your stepdad just fell. I got up and helped him back up in bed and he seemed off. And I didn’t really think of whole lot. I It’s 5 30, 6 o’clock in the morning. And I just went back to lay down on the couch. And next thing you know, my guys show up cuz my mom called 9 1 1 and they showed up and I said, there was a veteran.
So there’s no, Hey, let’s go to the hospital. And he was going be like, Hey yeah, let’s go. He’s no, I’m not going fuck that place. I’m staying home. Like the worst conditions that he’s ever been in. For medical wise he’ll always tell you, I’m not going to the hospital this morning. That morning. He I looked at him and was like, Hey, pop.
I think it’s time for you to go. I was like think it’s time for you to go in. He just looked at me. He’s like, all I was like dumbfounded. The wife came over about eight that morning. My mom called me shortly after eight. I think it was like eight 15. And I was at the hospital by the time. It was like eight 20 and the hospitals, about 20 minutes from me, I was hauling asked 90, 95, got to the hospital.
Then one 15 that afternoon he passed away. I’m doing this for him, but also for myself, if that makes sense he’s been a. Big supporter of my choices that I’ve made in life, especially towards work. And then as an EMT trying to accomplish, I thought I’d finally made something outta myself after my mom’s ex-boyfriend telling me my entire life, I wasn’t gonna be doing anything.
I was just gonna be working at McDonald’s piece of shit. Like my father, I’m an alcoholic. And I just wanted somebody to support me and believe in me. And that’s what my stepdad did. So once I got my EMT, he’s great, congratulations. And I’m pumped, Hey I finally made something outta myself and he’s you haven’t made it.
He’s I haven’t seen a paramedic on the wall yet. And then, so you get your paramedic. That’s when you can finally say you made it. So after my probation this year, I plan on going back to school for my paramedic. And doing it in honor of my stepfather. So yeah, growing up like, earlier it was hell I think most of us in firefighting or in first responder would come from a unique situation of dysfunctional.
I think that’s why we all seek out being in this line of work. It’s been fun, but it comes with a lot of challenges. If I could look back on my experience and told a younger me be thinking of getting in this field what to do, it kinda how to handle things. I would’ve definitely done that, but looking back and looking forward in my career, I’m looking to help other people, so they don’t go down the same paths that I have done.
Stack: Let’s talk a little bit about your childhood. I know you said your parents divorced, your dad was an alcoholic. He was abusive towards your mom. Yeah. And you, where did you grow up the predominant, the formative years.
Where did you grow up,
Greg: man? I was bouncing between motel rooms, campers tents farm fields in a camper using the bathroom in Connecticut, in the snow in a five gallon bucket, cuz we had no running water. So you name it? That’s pretty much where I grew up. I don’t like camping. I hate it.
I don’t want a camper. I don’t want a tent. The only reason I do camping is because my kids enjoy it and I don’t wanna Rob them of something because I don’t like it or I don’t enjoy it. I love the outdoors. I love fishing. I love hunting. I just don’t like the camping aspect because of that’s the way I grew up.
I never had a house to call my own. It was literally 10 campers, any campground that we could find we’d stay there for months on end. I remember going through like fourth grade to like fifth grade, sixth grade, almost living in a motel in a two small, two bedroom motel room with three dogs. And then we bought a fifth wheel camper, went to Florida and that’s what I lived in all the way until we moved up here.
And then we got a decent, small, decent size to me, it was still small, but a two bedroom apartment that was like my first home that was in a camper. I actually had a bedroom. I had a, my own dead bedroom with a door. Like basically, I grew up sleeping on coaches air mattresses was definitely not a fun childhood.
We made the best of me and my sisters. We made the best of it. But looking back at it, like now having kids of my own, I would never put my kids through that.
Stack: So where did you go to high school? Yeah,
Greg: I went to high school up here in Minnesota. Graduated. I graduated in 2012, was supposed to graduate in 2012 or 2010, but with us moving around so much, I was held back two grades.
One of ’em was my fault. I had a lot of anger issues growing up, so I used to fight every day. I’d go back to school and I’d fight and get suspended. Go back to school fight. There’s no. back then. There was no telling me like, Hey, this is gonna be the consequence of your actions. It was just no one could tell me anything.
I just wanna do what I wanted to do and how I was gonna do it. And there’s no one telling me otherwise because I didn’t have that structure growing up. It was just all right. You’re eight years old. You’re now the man of the house. How do I do that? And then found finding myself later on in my early teen years, being the man of the house before my stepdad arrived and took over.
But I, I don’t
everything I’ve gone through in my life. I would not change because that’s made me the person I am today. And I think that’s what made me more driven when people told me that I couldn’t get into this line of work .
Stack: Speaking of this line of work, how did you find the fire service?
Greg: So finding the fire service, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I, there was, I wanted to join the military at one point and I wanted to do this and do that. And my buddy was like, Hey, come check out this fire program, it’s called the fire explorers. And I’m like, okay, sure. Up to this point, there was no consistency in my life.
So I’d find something that I say I enjoy. And then I’d just drop it because it wasn’t interesting in me, like it was just boring after a while. So I’m like, yeah, you know what script? I have nothing to, I’ll go check it out and got in there. And the first year I was like, all right, Hey. Yeah, this is cool.
And my mom stepdad was like, all right, I give him another, half a year or whatever, another couple weeks. And he’s gonna quit. I stayed through it all four years throughout high school. I’m like, you know what? I kind this I wanna do this and I toyed with the idea earlier on in childhood when my mom and dad split, my dad would pick me up every other weekend and we’d go to the fire station.
So that was like our thing to do. And I was like, all right, cool. Like this is awesome at four or five years old is this is awesome. I get to go look at fire trucks and play around. And so I toyed with that idea, but it wasn’t, until later on when I got into the fire explorers and then thought I was like, alright, Hey, yeah, I could see myself doing this and I’ll just show up after I graduate from high school and I get a pager and get some gear and they’re like, all cool.
You’re on your own, mostly at the next call. As I went on, I realized that’s not the truth at all. There’s a lot more to it than. Just being a firefighter. You have to be a, either first responder or EMT or paramedic. And at the time I was in high school, my senior year was going through EMT.
And I didn’t, I was like this isn’t for me. And then I got married. I had kids, I had two wonderful girls and I got divorced and then moved back home with my mom and my stepdad sleeping on their couch. That’s routinely for me, sleeping on couches. And I’m like, I’m working at landscaping for, 10 bucks an hour.
And then I got laid off because of the snow. And then I was like, okay, I have two kids divorced and I need to somehow to make. Make money to support my kids. And so I ended up working at Jamie. John’s the only fast food place I’ve ever worked in my entire life, because I was determined because of my mom’s ex-boyfriend telling me, you’re gonna work at McDonald’s, you’re gonna work at burger king for the rest of your life.
And I was like, no, you know what, fuck you, man. You’re not telling me what I’m gonna do in my life. The only person that’s gonna be able to do that is myself. So I ended up sucking up my pride. I’m like, you know what? I don’t wanna work that fast food, but I have to, because of my kids and I suck up my, I suck up my pride and did it making eight bucks an hour.
And then I left at after year. So started working at the gym and then I was like, I want to go after this fire dream of mine ended up enrolling into an EMT program. I paid on, paid it for myself. I fail. Because I, I got too cocky. The first time I failed by 21 points and I was devastated.
I was like, this is what’s really holding me up. I have my fire one fire, two they’re about to lapse. This is what I need is my EMT and get it in my foot, in the door somewhere where I can renew my licenses for fire before I completely lose it. And that night that I failed my instructor, eyes and tears, I was pissed.
More so not pissed that I failed, but it was more like I let my kids down because I’m trying to do this for them to let them know and show them like, Hey, no matter how hard life gets to keep pushing after what you want to do in life. My instructor sat me down. He was like, Hey, here’s a scoop.
I have another class coming up in four months or in January, I think this was late November. So it was like a couple months and I would like to offer you to come back and take this class again, free of charge. And I was like, absolutely. So thankfully again, I was, I got back into landscaping and I got laid off again due the snow.
And I just took four months off on unemployment, which kind of sucked. But at the same time, it’s a blessing. And I literally, just from the time I woke up to the time I went to bed, I was craming EMT stuff. And then finally passed that, got hired as an EMT with that company and started working for four years, got hired September 11th, 2017 as an EMT, which is to me, that was like a calling, I guess it was like, what better day to start this job.
and go down the route that you want to go down. So it’s like a I don’t even know how to really explain it, but it just stood out in my mind. I’m like, all right, there, there’s something behind this. And then I started working and then I really started pushing for my fire. I was like, all I’m getting experience as this, at this time.
My all my fire certifications are not active anymore. They’re expire because I’m not on a department to keep up with them.
Stack: So with the, EMT, were you working private transport or what were you doing at that time? Yeah,
Greg: so this was like private EMS. So I’m doing transfers. I’m doing, nine one ones.
We had a couple PSAs. So I was kind doing both explain
Stack: what a PSA is. So
Greg: it’s most of these fire departments have like basic. BLS, basic ambulances, basic life support, where they don’t transport. So anything like cardiac arrest, anything major trauma wise, you have to have a paramedic. So we would contract with those cities of Hey, will be your ALS providers will be your transport swipe.
Or so I did that for four years, about three years into it. I got on the fire department, finally, same place that I was doing my Explorer program. And so it was like a, it was home for me. I knew most of the guys. So I got on started, crushing, it, went through the academy, no problems got out the academy and I’m like, all right, I wanna do this full time.
Sadly, my department is a combination, so it’s pit on call and full time. But once we get full time here, nobody leave. So the next opening is gonna be like another 10 years, if not, maybe even longer. So I just just worked both jobs between EMT and firefighting and went through, my mental health.
That’s where it started taking over, taken over between COVID and a few of the calls that we’ve had. And then also losing a close friend of mine.
Stack: So I, yeah, I think that COVID is one that oddly enough, I haven’t discussed with many people yet on the show. And I think maybe when I get to the hospital staff I might hear some more nurses, especially in the emergency room and how they were stretched thin during the pandemic.
But, yeah, COVID definitely, it caused some issues for everybody. I think there’s a lot of those transports you’re taking them to the hospital and you just know what the outcome is gonna be. And I don’t know if that was your experience or if you’re speaking of something different.
Greg: No, absolutely.
You nailed it right there. Being stretched thin, we would have new employees come and they would get on the ambulance and they’re like, all right, Hey, you got a COVID transfer and they’d start breaking down in tears. They didn’t wanna do it. And at that time I’m working four days a week, 10 hours a day.
And that’s from the start of my shift to the end of the shift. That’s all I was doing is transfers of COVID patients and then coming home to a stepfather that was ill. And I’m like, if I catch this and I bring it home and he catches it, that’s a death sentence for him. And just seeing these people on hospice.
and whatever else going to these care centers and the care centers are all on lockdown. So the next time the family may see this person is in a casket or who knows, or buy a window. I don’t even think the window visits were even an option at that time, but dealing with that and pulling up to care centers and you see all these families coming out and they just wanna see five seconds of their loved ones and tell ’em that they love them.
The hospitals that we were taking, these COVID patients to, we ended up bringing over two or three ambulances. And we were literally stacking bodies in there because the morgues were getting so backed up and there was no other places for ’em. So you’re dealing with that and then you’re coming home.
Like I started leaving my uniforms at work, my boots. I started showering after I got off. And then when I got home, I would shower again. It just played a huge toll, doing it in day in and day out. My wife, she works in the hospitals. She understands it. She was going through the same things there. So her and I can relate on those kinds of things like that.
And then, you’re waking up the next morning and you’re supposed to be all a jolly and happy and I ended up catching COVID about a year into it. Just so a week before Thanksgiving and ice quarantine for 14 days. And that’s really when the depression started hitting, like here I am isolated from everybody.
I can’t work. That’s really driving me nuts. I missed my daughter’s seventh birthday because I had COVID and it just took a huge toll. I started drinking. I just turned into somebody that. everybody told me that I was going to turn into like my father growing up and that’s who I was turning into.
And it was something I had to look in the mirror and really look at myself and what the fuck are you doing? You made it this long, proving everybody wrong. And you’re going through this now and you’re proving everybody. Like they knew that you were going to fail and that you were gonna go down this route.
And that was like, that was a huge wake up call for me.
Stack: During the entire COVID period, you’re still running other calls as well though, correct?
Oh, absolutely. And you’re still, you’re working fire and EMS at the same time. Yes, sir. So separate fire and EMS at the same time, correct? Correct. So what was happening on the fire side and what was adding to it from that fire side? If anything?
Greg: Yeah. So about a year into it, it was like the first year into COVID.
It was mother’s day weekend. I was up getting at the fire station, getting ready for my physical agility test. I was coming up and I think it was in June or July, but I just wanted to get up there. They were setting the course up and we were just gonna go up there and start practicing. And we got up there, started putting my gear on to get ready and tows dropped for a fire.
So we jumped on the truck, hauled ass and as we were in route, the computer started, giving us updates and reports were coming in that there was still a victim inside. We weren’t sure. Exactly what was going on with little bit of notes and little bit of info that we were getting from dispatch, other than we knew somebody was still inside.
My cap looked back. I’m still, I think I was just barely getting off my probation at that time. So my cap looked at me and my now Lieutenant and they’re like, Hey, mask up, we’re getting ready for a rescue. And I was like, all right, cool. I started masking up in the truck and as we turned the block, I’m looking for smoke or smells.
Anything. I’m not seeing anything. I’m not really smelling anything. We arrived on scene, not really a whole lot showing. My captain said he saw some brown smoke. I didn’t see anything. He ended up doing the 360 and we were getting the hose line deployed to the front door. He started yelling, Nope, bring it to the back door.
So we ended up stretching him to the back door, tried to make entrance. The door was locked. Captain decided to kick it in. And we got, he met with a lot of heat and smoke my captain and Lieutenant. They ended up going in with our sistering neighbors. They arrived. I was in charge of the hose line, getting it set up for them since I was still technically new.
And here was the first big major incident. My cap wasn’t quite confident, which completely understandable. So they ended up going in. I got to the door away to help feeding him a hose. And that’s when the roof or not the roof, the floor collapsed on top of them. They ended up bailing out, backing out a fire.
There was. Little bit of flickering of flames. But at that time, the fire’s been going for so long. It pretty much put itself out. So now we have a hole in the floor and still can’t find this victim. So we ended up going up doing the search, nothing. We knew that there was still somebody inside just cuz of the neighbors letting us know Hey yep.
No one came out, blah, blah, blah. So we got everything cleared up ventilated and where the chair that came through the floor, when it collapsed, there was the body next to it. So that, that was like a shock for me at that point. It didn’t really. It’s affected me, but it really hasn’t because I came to copes with, Hey, if we got there 10 minutes faster, the outcome still would’ve been the same.
If the neighbors would’ve called it in, X amount of time before this happened, there might have been a fighting chance. But removing the body, the smell that really got to me once you smell a burning flesh, you’ll never forget that smell. I’ve had experience with that working on the farm and then going back to work for COVID and dealing with that.
Couple months later, we were called out for a cardiac arrest, arrived on scene at our local motel, and there was a five month old. That was in cardiac arrest, sexually assaulted by the mother’s drug dealer that really hit home still haven’t coped with that fully understanding the aspect of why somebody would do that to innocent child, how the mother could choose drugs over your own child.
Growing up, my mom chose her men over us kids, and I still to this day, don’t understand why. That’s a topic that me and my mother don’t talk about and probably for good reasons, but just looking back at it, it’s like it hit home because here I am dealing with my own demons of COVID and now the fatal.
And now this. In my own addiction with alcohol, it’s there’s no way that I could pick alcohol over my kids, even in my worst days, because growing up without a father, I, I don’t want that for my kids. So I pushed through, we discussed it a little bit.
Stack: What did you discuss?
Greg: Just the whole incident, of how everybody was feeling what could have went differently, a huge debriefing.
Stack: Yeah, just say so. So a hot wash. Yeah. Was it immediately following into call or was, it was, had some time passed before you did this debrief?
Greg: I wanna say it was like a week or maybe it, it was little bit of time after.
It’s one thing that’s nice out here is we don’t have that usually after an incident right away. I have mixed emotions on those. I guess my first really introduction to that was month into me being an EMT. We had a line of duty death ambulance smoked a back of a semi that was stalled on the side of the road.
There’s more details that I won’t get into just for the family’s sake and everybody involved in my old company and then getting into that and then going in the next morning to work. And instead of saying good morning to everybody, it was just morning. And here’s these counselors coming up like, Hey, How are you doing this morning?
And it’s how the fuck do you think I’m feeling right now? Like we just lost one of our own. And it like, hit me like, Hey, you’re like maybe that’s not the time and place to do that. Give us a little bit of time to grieve and actually be able to come together as a company and as a family to grieve together before we start throwing these counselors in that have no idea what this job is like.
And here they come in all chipper and happy and it’s no. So like getting back to the previous episode with TJ, when they were talking about how they came back to the fire station and all these people were there. That’s how I felt like when he was talking about that, I’m like this line of duty yes, I felt exactly the same way.
Looking back now into this where I’m at and been to a few, it’s okay, I understand why they were there. But being. Exposed first, first time around to one of those kind of put like a salty taste in my mouth. So I didn’t really open up a whole lot about this call and then been on a suicide with another captain came in a Sunday afternoon for a check welfare of a person in a car, lots of blood unknown, where it’s coming from PD arrived on scene after we were staged in the area, waiting for them to get in there.
So they arrived confirmed that there was a suspect in the vehicle with a single gunshot, didn’t say where. So my cap looked at us and was like, Hey, you guys ready? And we’re like, let’s go uh, we get there and mind you there’s families and little kids like. I think the youngest might have been like three years old and the oldest, probably 11.
So I have a seven year old, a nine year old, a 10 year old and an 11 year old boy. So pretty much my entire age range of kids. I could see them standing over there and we get there and the dude ended up taking a 12 gauge and committed suicide. To this day I cannot eat spaghetti. I don’t know why my brain made the concept of putting what I see or what I saw with a food group, like spaghetti.
I used to love and enjoy spaghetti. And I can’t eat it.
Just before I was I, before I left this, my old department for my current department we had another fatal fire. It was in a trailer, came in about 11, 11 30 at night. Got there. The crews were already inside making a push, not sure where the victim completely was.
The fire was in the bedroom and that’s where. Found a victim. We were on the, on deck circle. So we were next to go in or do search and rescue. We were just waiting for the IC to give us a task other than, Hey, you’re on the, on deck circle, come up, and we’ll go from there. So the inferior crew found them, we got the nod to go get him, bringing him out.
Skin started sliding off the guy’s body cuz he was burnt so bad. I still had skin on my gloves from that call that I was unable to get off those gloves that I no longer have I got rid of them. But he was making that hissing sound like I know to some listeners you might understand and some may not.
And I’m not trying to be insensitive. This is just the way my brain works. And please forgive me, but it sounded like a hot dog being in a microwave when it starts hissing. That’s what I can relate it to. And I’m like, all right, cool. Like maybe this guy has a fighting chance. Obviously he’s badly bruised or badly burnt.
They were going to have to get an airway in and get to work. And so we threw ’em on the cot. The medics came over, , they checked the vitals and there was nothing. The guy was deceased and then we ended up picking him up and putting him on the ground. Because the ambulance crew didn’t want the body and the ambulance because it’s no dead bodies go in ambulances.
For some that don’t know. Usually, if there’s a body that’s in an ambulance, you cannot leave. Until the me gets their medical examiner and they take over the body. So pretty much it’ll be outta service until the me gets there. The crew did not wanna do it. So we ended up picking his body up and putting him between the trailer.
That was his, that was on fire and the neighbor’s trailer and covered him up with tarp. This all happened when I was going into my academy at my current job. That’s the first time full-time fire. I’ve been lucky enough to get that job. So that’s where I’m the new rookie, again, as you mentioned
Coming in that morning of the academy. And, everybody’s talking about how their weekend was and they got to me and I was like, we had a fatal fire. Don’t really wanna talk about it. My kids were home at the time and all I can remember is coming home. I had my phone on me and I texted the wife and I was like, Hey, I think we had, we were planning on having a couple social drinks, at night, watched a family movie and have a call with drinks.
So I messaged her and I was like, making me the strongest drink that you can I’m on my way back. And she’s okay. And she’s is something wrong? And I was like, don’t really wanna talk about it. Just so you know this is the gist of it. And she’s okay. And I was like, I know the kids are gonna be super excited.
For me to get back home, I’m safe. I was like, I’m literally put the drink in the bathroom. I’m gonna go shower decompress. And I’m just gonna pound this fucking drink. And I just want the kids to go to bed. I don’t wanna deal with them asking like a whole bunch of questions cuz I’m trying to block it out.
And she’s okay, I completely agree. Like I support you. She’s but I think it’s okay to be transparent to the kids. So if you’re not being your normal self, they understand why, or if you’re short tempered, they understand why you’re doing it. And I’m like, fine. You know what? You’re right.
They’re old enough. They, they can. Sure. So we gave them the PG 13 of, Hey dad had a, the fire. That helped get the person out. So if dad seems off, this is why I’ve been dealing with it as much as I can, as best as I can. I was diagnosed shortly after all this with PTSD and it makes sense to, I’ve been always been that person that doesn’t go and seek help no matter what.
Stack: So what made you seek help this time? Why did you, why’d you say that enough was enough for now and seek out some help?
Greg: It was causing issues and the relationship between my wife and I I’m still short tempered with her. Our marriage and our relationship is not happy at all right now. We’re working through it.
I’ve made my fair mistakes in this relationship. But she’s Hey you need to do something. Or this is not working. And I have two bonus kids from her and her previous husband that is not a father at all. So they look up to me as the father figure and the only father that they know, and I don’t wanna lose them because I’m too stupid to go and ask for help.
The whole stereotypical, you’re a firefighter, you’re a badass. You don’t ask for help. You bury it deep and you move on. That’s bullshit. It’s okay to not be okay. I’ve lost a close friend of mine to suicide fellow firefighter, not a, not on my department of another bigger department here and.
I I was been close to that edge, so when she came to me and said Hey, either you do this or we’re gone. I was like, okay. So that’s what I did. Went to therapy for a little bit was recommended to get a service animal. I have a six month old Fox red lab named Bama. He’s a duck hunting and my service animal.
He’s been great at first. I was like, all right, Hey, yeah, this is gonna be, my hunting buddy, not really my service animal or my ESA animal, whatever you wanna call ’em like, how is this gonna bring me joy? Yeah, it’s gonna be fun. Training them, getting ’em outside, blah, blah, blah. And it’s completely has changed.
He picks up on social cues when I’m upset, I can come home and sit on the couch and not say a word and he’ll come up and put his head on my chest and he’ll just sit there for hours just with his head there. I’ll look at him in the morning sometimes. And I’ll just say, can I have a hug? And he’ll just jump up, gimme the hug and he’ll stand there.
He’s great with the kids. The kids will, think it’s awesome. Bam, a give hug. So Hey, can I gimme a hug? And he does it. I think if somebody can learn from the path that I’ve gone down with the alcohol, with the shitty relationships and seek help before you get to that point, or maybe you’re you find yourself there now, There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.
You just have to be the one that’s in charge and take ownership of it and say, you know what enough is enough? I don’t want to go to another friend’s funeral. I know it’s gonna happen. I don’t think mental health will ever go away. Like we hope it does, but if we can put a curve to it and bring the numbers down, we already have enough tough job as it is that will kill us.
Why add more stress to it and take our own lives and not be able to see our family grow up and have that happy life. That’s of where I’m at right now. Taking every day, one step at a time, one day at a time. And. Trying to be better than what I was yesterday or even my last shift.
Stack: So you had the service dog, which is fantastic.
The idea of a service dog is great. It’s the, it helps quite a bit. I’ve read about it. I’ve I haven’t experienced it obviously, but I’ve read about it. I’ve not studied it, but I paid attention to it. Are you still seeing a therapist once in a while or is that not going on right now?
Greg: That is not going on right now.
I can of see how it helps, but at the same time, my Pride’s getting in the way by it’s not helping. So why
Stack: go? So other than your service dog, what’s your plan?
Greg: So I enjoy working out a lot being outdoors I love duck hunting. I know mental health and sports with guns. Don’t really match.
I know, I understand that, but. I’m past that point in my life. Spending time with friends, honestly, finding who I am as a person, instead of letting this demo of mental health take reigns over who I am as a person I duck on with my best friend. I can call him any day, night. Doesn’t matter. I can call him anytime and say, Hey, I need to talk he’s there.
If I don’t feel safe with guns in the house, I call him. I’m like, Hey man, I don’t feel safe. I can go over to him and drop my guns off. And I know that they’re taken care of until, I can see counseling and that hasn’t happened for quite some time. Probably 2, 3, 4, maybe even five years dealing with it all.
And a lot of it’s. Some of it came from the calls, but a lot of the majority of it came from my childhood being beaten every day by my mom’s ex-boyfriend. And when I’m talking about beating, it’s not slow smack on the butt. It’s wires from cars that are taped in electrical tape getting punched in the face, you name it, anything that he could get his hands on to hit you with, he was doing it and there was no stopping him.
So dealing with a lot of that trauma, and then you’re going into this line of work where when you see things that most people will never see and we’re supposed to be okay about it. So honestly the, between the counseling and mostly my service animal and my life now, those are what really saved my life.
Stack: How far into your rookie year are you right now into your new rookie year? Let’s put it that way
Greg: into my new rookie year. I started the academy in April mid-April, but I’m on, off I’m off probation next April by actual being on shift with my crew May 2nd. So I am just a couple months into rookie year for me.
Stack: And it’s not a, this is not a new thing, so you know how to play the game . Yeah. Have you shared some of these experiences, some of these what you’ve learned over the couple years, one more than a couple years over the years. Have you shared any of this with the people in your class?
Greg: Yeah. There’s a probie again for his sake and for my department’s sake, I won’t give too much details. But there is a probie that his first shift. Ended up dealing with a 12 year old that killed himself. I spoke with this individual as well as other people about mental health.
And if anything, he’s bugging him to reach out and we get the whole, he’s young, he’s 19 years old and he’s, oh, I’m fine. I’m not losing sleep over it yet. I’m not doing this. And it’s look, man, I was the same way at your age. Nothing was I’m Bulletproof, nothing was gonna hurt me.
Nothing’s gonna haunt me. I’m Bulletproof and seven feet tall Superman. I was like, but it’s going to hit you. It might not be today. It might not be a year from now. It’s gonna be something small that triggers it. But it’s, but you need to talk about it even if it’s not hurting you right now, just to my therapist Would always say, Hey, the more you talk about it, the easier it gets.
Some things it does. Yes. I found that out myself, sometimes it, and what I’m telling you is not, take it and do this. It works for some people and it works and it doesn’t work for others. So this is my experience. It has worked for me for some things and it hasn’t for others. But I can just person Hey man, like if you ever need to talk, you have my number.
Call me, text me. Anything that I can do to help you. You’ve got my number. We see each other all the time, between shifts, whatever. It sucks because I’m two hours away. So I commute back and forth. Until next month we actually get a place that’s half hour from where I’m at now. So it’s hard, if he texted me or calls me, and Hey, I needed somebody to talk to you.
It’s a lot of it’s by phone or text message. But I just encourage, Hey, talk about it. Or if it happens later on, we need somebody to talk to or get you some kind of help. So it’s just, for me, it is paying it forward to somebody because I didn’t have that in my corner, starting out.
I, like I said, watching other family members being in the military and some in the fire service, like my uncle was an assistant chief way back in the day where it was like dirt roads and horses still. I wish we would’ve been able to talk about mental health. But fortunately he passed before I got that chance to actually talk to him about it and just see how things were different back then, of other than, you’re strong men, don’t cry, men don’t ask for help, you just deal with it and move on.
And I think that’s something that we, as a community need to grasp and break, break that cycle of, Hey, I wanna talk about it and my department encourages it. They, Hey, if you need help we’ll send you to the place out in the excellence place there the center of excellence.
Yeah. That, that they’ll send you to that. And to me that’s huge because to me, I can feel like, Hey, I can open up and be honest about my feelings and there’s not a single person in here. That’s going to judge me. They’re gonna get me resources. If that doesn’t work, then here’s where the next step is.
We just put a huge fundraiser on for one of, one of our guys that needs to go out. And we all pitched in and was like, absolutely no questions asked, the email came out and I think, we did t-shirt orders alone. I ordered four shirts and it was like 85 bucks. I’m like, I don’t care.
Financially it hurts a little bit, but you know what, helping somebody else that needs it’s no problem. Because I know that they would do the same for me. So having that department that gets behind their people and it’s Hey, we’re gonna support you is freaking awesome to me. , I haven’t really had that a whole lot previously.
Other than, the 10 free phone calls of talking to somebody and they wanna sit there and talk about how your day is been there. Hey, you should read this book and we’ll, I’ll call you next weekend. We discuss, how that made you feel. Okay. How do we discuss this?
When all I can think about is the suicide or whatever else, like when can we start talking about that? They don’t understand. That’s, there’s counselors out there that understand this profession and there’s, they’re willing to help. We just have to reach. And ask for it.
Stack: That’s key reaching out, admitting that there’s time, that it is time for some help and finding that right connection because it’s not just help.
It’s not just any kind of help. It’s the help that is gonna connect with you. And it’s going to, it has to, like I said, it has to connect with you, correct? Yep, absolutely. All right. The last two questions I’m gonna ask the first one being that this show is called, the things we all carry.
Obviously as I’ve said on every other show before this, we all carry something into a call, a tool an aid bag or whatever, but we all carry something out of a call. It seems more personal to us. It could be a scar, just could be a memory. But I just want to know what’s an everyday carry for you.
Some item that you might have on your person who you just carry around with you each day, that without it, you feel like you feel lost.
Greg: So I’ve got three one that I personally carry every single day. And then there’s two in my fire gear that I carry every day when I’m on shift getting to those, it is a patch from my stepdad when he was in the military.
He was a door gunner over in Vietnam and hearing that every day makes me feel like I’m closer to him. And then the second one is Michael Murphy’s patch from lone survivor. I just feel like we’re a band of brothers and we’re willing to fight for each other. So I carried that get some backgrounds on him.
He carried a lot he carried a fire patch with him while he was over in deployment. So I think that’s just a. For me carrying that is paying honor to him and his sacrifice. And then the one that I cherish every day is a us flag that I have in my wallet. It’s a small flag for my uncle’s funeral that they gave to me.
It’s in a bag. I know it’s you probably shouldn’t carry it. But he meant the world to me. And that’s one thing that I carry every single day. It’s in my wallet and there’s been days where it, I took it outta my wallet or I switched wallets or whatever, and I forgot it at home. I’m gone to shift and it’s been the shittiest shift I’ve ever had or things just didn’t go.
And I’m just like, man, like, where’s this? And it’s oh, it’s at home. So tho those are the three things that I carry daily. I
Stack: like that they all have a very personal meaning to you. So that’s those are good choices. Alright, so let’s hear a book, a movie, a podcast, a song. It doesn’t matter something that would resonate with listeners, something that you think they should read or listen to or study uh,
Greg: for bookwise I ex extreme ownership by Jo jock O willin.
I love that book. I’ve got the other book that he’s got. There’s so many books that he has. It’s I don’t even remember the name. It’s been a while it’s in the box somewhere. But extreme ownership. I read that. I try to read it every four or five months just to see what I have learned from it or how I can take something new that I’ve learned out of it and ex and put it in into my everyday life.
Song. I think that really hits close to me cuz I lost both my real father. He died at 52. was like 16 when I lost him to cancer. And then my stepdad is if heaven wasn’t so far away by just the Moore, it, it talks about, if heaven wasn’t so far away that you could bring your kids to see your loved ones and just have that reunion.
Like I, I, I know my dad am, I should say, dads are both proud of the man that I’ve turned into. Maybe not some of the choices I’ve made but what I’m doing in life, my career, it would just be nice to have that satisfaction of them saying, Hey, we’re proud of you. I love you. We’ll see each other soon and have the kids.
My two youngest daughters. Don’t know my father, my real father. So just having that relationship with them and that those are the two things that kind of get me through when I’m feeling shitty. And I just miss my dad or dads. When I say dad both it just, again, there’s the way I am.
I turn on that sound and I feel like they’re both with me, or if I see Eagle, they both love Eagle. So when I see those, it just they’re sending me a message Hey, we’re still here. Keep pushing. You’re doing, you’re doing great. We’ll see you soon. So that’s, those are the things that I do and I recommend
I appreciate all of that. I think that’s, it’s all good choices and I’ll. I’ll link to both of the, to, excuse me, I’ll link to both the song and the book in the show notes, and people can find them. You’re not the first person suggested extreme ownership. And I think in our community, it’s a book that’s probably well read.
I think any company officer or anybody that’s looking for into leadership roles should definitely read that book.
Stack: I gotta thank you. This has been a good conversation. Thanks for sharing. And thanks for being open. Thanks for reaching out and asking if you could share your story.
So I’m always surprised when people are reaching out to me, I’m pleased by it, but still surprised by it. So thank you very much.
Greg: Yeah, you’re welcome. And again, thank you, for giving me this opportunity to be heard and hopefully this helps somebody else.