Cody Shea-The Call We Carry

Today. I get to introduce my audience to Cody Shea and his brilliant work of art, which is entitled “The Call We Carry” 

Cody’s a firefighter in the state of Washington and an independent filmmaker. Not just any filmmaker now, but an award-winning filmmaker as he recently won the 2022 best first-time filmmaker award from the California Indies film festival. 

Cody set out to make a five minute promo for his department’s peer support and what followed became a full feature documentary on trauma, PTSD, and recovery. His movie does to PTSD and recovery what my podcast is attempting to do….Highlight our struggles, inform you that you aren’t alone, and show a path to recovery. 

Cody Shea

Stack: Welcome to another episode of the things we all carry. A few weeks ago, maybe more by now I stumbled across an indie film project with a very familiar title, the film, which was out of the Pacific Northwest, had such a similar title to my podcast. I had to check

My first thought was actually kind of a selfish one. I. Thought to myself was shit. Someone else was doing what I’m doing. That thought quickly faded. As I looked deeper into the film and the story behind it. Today. I get to introduce my audience to Cody Shea and his brilliant work of art, which is entitled “The Call We Carry”

Cody’s a firefighter in the state of Washington and an independent filmmaker. Not just any filmmaker now, but an award-winning filmmaker as he recently won the 2022 best first-time filmmaker award from the California Indies film festival.

Cody set out to make a five minute promo for his department’s peer support And what followed became a full feature documentary on trauma, PTSD, and recovery. His movie does to PTSD and recovery. What my podcast is attempting to do. Highlight our struggles inform you that you aren’t alone and show a path to recovery.

That these two projects grew separately and organically on their own with an entire country between us. It’s still amazing

The similarity in our approach is astonishing. And it’s heartwarming to know that there are others out there shining a spotlight on this issue and trying to spread the word nationally and even internationally. We as a fire service specifically, and humans in general can only benefit by the use of multiple voices preaching the same message.

A quick reminder to please help us build a community which not only recognizes, but supports each other through the struggles and recovery.

Reach out through Instagram @thethingsweallcarry or email. to offer support and to share your story. Please remember to leave a review on iTunes to give a shout out to any first responder, you know, love or care about y’all enjoy the show.

. Cody, Shea, thanks for coming on the show. How are you doing?

Cody: I’m doing good. How are you?

Stack: I’m doing well. I gotta tell you.

And we just talked briefly.

I watched your movie and I’ve been blown away by it.

The stories in there, the the content. It all rings. So similar to what I’m trying to do on this show.

And it just blows me away.

That There’s somebody out there on the west coast.

and there’s somebody out here on the east coast and we’re, we got the same thought in mind. And so I appreciated it very much.

I want to talk to you about it.

and drive my audience to your movie.

Cody: Yeah, man. Thanks for having me on and It’s funny. It’s a small world. Like I said I wish we met And we definitely have the same message that we’re trying to get across. Real pleasure to be on today.

Stack: Not only the same

message, but I The ironic

thing is we almost had the same exact title. You’re I am on a show called the things we all carry and you’re making a movie called the call we carry and it just so ironic. And so it’s so similar eerily similar, when you watched the movie.

Cody: Yeah. Yeah, it was a. It’s pretty ironic when I found your podcast and realized, What is this? The names are similar. And then I listen to your podcasts. I was like, dude. This guy

Stack: yeah, and I’m happy

Th that organically, it came about that we both started doing something very similar because that means that there’s More people.

There are more people.

thinking about this and it. It bodes well for the future. I hope.

Cody: Oh, I completely agree. Yeah. It is funny cause I didn’t, I never heard your show. And then I heard it.

Stack: So. why don’t you give us, why don’t you give us a little bit of your background? Where are you from?

I know that we’re going to speak in some generalities, but what’s your history What’s your family history

What what was growing up like.

and how do you end up where you are today?

Cody: I’m 34. I grew up in Tacoma, Washington. Area. And I’ve been in the fire service for five years. I was raised in a firefighting household. Both my folks Firefighters with Seattle. All retired now. Stepdad as well. Part of Seattle So I was pretty much raised within that culture and had a lot of exposure to it at a really young age. It’s pretty much all I ever knew was that.

No folks were 24 hour shifts. I’d go to grandma’s house. They’d get off. Take me home. That was my life growing So I had a lot of familiarity with the fire service young. And a lot of exposure to And let’s see, I. I got out of high school and started working full time. And, there was always that niche in the back of my mind. It’s

I really do want to be a firefighter, but I was more in the rebellious stage in my life, took me in a different direction. And I fought it tooth and nail going into my twenties and gave up on pursuing it. And. Started a Longboard skateboard company. And that turned into a full-time gig up until about.

25 years old and then. My mom talked to me one day and said, Hey, You can do all this stuff, that you’re doing and you can still be a firefighter. that point, the money was washing up. And I didn’t really see any longevity. In my current plan. So I decided to start testing

went after trying to get hired with Seattle. And I got hired to south of there. And turned out to be the best thing. That ever could have happened to me. Getting hired outside of Seattle.

Especially today because I wouldn’t be hired. I would’ve been fired if I went to Seattle because I had the vaccine mandate. Going on down here.

Stack: Oh, yeah, definitely. Yup. That went on quite a number of spots across the country. Yeah.

Cody: Yeah, that was Affirmation that I’ve made the right decision. That I’m where I’m supposed to be.

And then got through probation and started joining some committees. And Passion for photography and videography. From when I ran the skateboard company and did all the promotional videos. Still photography for that for years. But. I always missed it. I just didn’t have the gear. And then when I got the job,

Buy myself some good gear. And bought a camera. And starting taking still photography for the department, just for. Their promotional needs just a mostly. In a hobby. A sense . I started doing still photography for the fire department. And then once I, acquired some new camera gear, started doing promotional videos for them as well. Mostly just in a hobby capacity. And ended up doing a video for the department. That did really

And then. About a year ago, our chief. Asked me if I do a five to seven minute video. Highlighting the services within our department and particularly our peer support team. Basically infomercial for our peer support team. And. That isn’t really my style. If you see any of my.

Of my work or my projects. I’d put a

Lot of effort into. And a kind of. Think of myself as a perfectionist in my own mind. Like I just beat something up until I can’t beat it up anymore. And then I release it. So I decided I was just going to talk to some people, I didn’t really know where to start. And said I’ll see if anybody’s willing to talk to me on camera.

Yeah. And reached out to a couple of people and eventually someone said, yes, and then. One person turned into two, two turned into four. And before I knew it over four months, I interviewed about. 10 people. All within my department. And some of the stories that I heard were really moving.

It was hard not to relate to the stories that I heard. And I realized really quick that. This wasn’t going to be five to seven minute infomercial on our peer support team I reached out to my chief and I said, look, This isn’t going to be the video. That we’re all used to seeing. This is really deep and it’s dark and it’s raw and it’s real.

But I think it just going to do some good.

I luckily got the opportunity from the chief right then and there to just run with it. And you said just do your thing.

Let me know when it’s And so I continued filming. I went on calls. I acquired footage from the news from stringers. People who sell put it to the news in our community. And a lot of people stepped up and gave me a lot of footage that I needed to actually put together a story. And just try to tell the story.

In their own words. I didn’t want a narrator. I wanted. A really good representation of what we see every day. And. In particular, our department. Being overworked. Having mandatory overtime. People are burning out. And I wanted to capture that as best I could.

And, I think we did

Stack: Oh, you definitely did it. I mean, I, like I said, I can’t speak enough about it. You nailed it when with this film.

Let’s go back to the beginning.

though. You mentioned that your parents were in a fire And that it was always there

Cody: Yeah.

Stack: one of the things I know we talked about a week ago when we first sat down to have a conversation is you mentioned a fire that, that, that touched your family a little bit. And it was a, It was a big deal in Seattle, correct?

Cody: Yeah. Yeah, it’s still, It was a big deal for those who remember it and went through

Stack: I consider myself somewhat of a student. I studied fires, especially fires that have fatalities, especially LOD, DS.

But I had to look this one up, so maybe you want to give a little background on this fire and maybe this will bring some people’s attention to

Cody: Sure. Yeah, it January 5th, 1995. In just south of downtown in Seattle, they had a. They had a building go up. And. It was a. Two-story warehouse building. And when the initial companies arrived on scene gave their size up They didn’t realize that it was a baby. They had a basement fire He’s building. And four guys were in there when the floor collapsed and four went down. Two of them survived the fall and ended up running

And it looked like to possibly. Died during It opened up a big.

Big hole for my family. My, my dad was That was his district. That was his building. And he was driver. At the time. On a engine company and they were. On an EMS call when this fire came in. So if anyone knew the layout of the building, that would have been his so they initially.

Heard the call go out. They were on there. EMS call. And then once they cleared that call, they were able to respond to the fire. But at that point it was already a little too And


I was seven years old when it happened. And I remember it like it was yesterday. I was at my grandma’s house and. I was just about to walk upstairs to go to bed and then breaking news on the TV, for firefighters for missing. In a warehouse, fire and Seattle I knew my, both, my folks were working that night.

And both of them ended up being on the scene. And I CA I went to bed, not really

If they were alive. And then it did turn out to be. For fatalities in the fire. And that opened up quite a criminal investigation did turn out to be an arson fire. And that building was actually being watched. By the ATF. To, to ours and threads to it. So they were already initially planning. Some are.

Expecting something to happen with this building, but that information never got transferred to the In Seattle. So basically these inspired biters. We’re walking into a trap that they could have been warned about, but weren’t that brought up a lot of trauma within. My, my parents, especially my dad.

My dad held on to. I guess some guilt from that from not being able to respond initially. Thinking you could have made a difference when, You never know. But that kind of took my dad down a pretty dark path. He. We’re pretty heavily into the alcohol and he didn’t last more than six years past that incident and ended up retiring early.

My mom did a full 30 years. Stepdad 32 years in it. And That wound was. Still felt today within my family. My dad, doesn’t really like to talk about it. At night when I first started to really consider going after the fire service in my mid twenties. Aye. I didn’t have a good relationship with my dad and my folks.

They divorced when I was three. At the age of about 10, he was pretty much out of my life. And

After. I decided I wanted to go through it. I kind I guess a conversation with myself and I said, If I’m going to do this, I need to understand what went wrong with my dad. I needed to understand what he saw, how it affected him, because I don’t want to set myself up for the same thing.

And so 25 years old, tried to go on a little. Mission to understand him better. And I talked to a lot of firefighters that worked with them and. Tried to ask him as much as I could, but I still wouldn’t really give it up. It was eerie because. I never really knew my dad like that.

I kinda knew the alcoholic. Dad, I didn’t know that the fireman. That was my father. And I wanted to understand what went wrong and then, the people that knew him best. Started laying out some of these calls that he’d been on, the Pang fire. I use. First on scene at something called the Goldmark murders. It was on Christmas Eve in Seattle or.

Um, Case of mistaken identity. It was supposed to be a political hit. Somebody broke into a family’s home and blood and the whole family with an iron. And he was first on scene for that. And. Kind of hearing how he handled it was It was told off, you My mom would come home and he’d be shooting targets in the backyard of the guy who actually.

Killed all those kids, He held onto that. He took it home. And

Self-medicated how he would. And then, our relationship fell apart. It’s fairly soon after that. I knew that if I was going to be a fireman I wanted to understand what happened to him. Cause I didn’t want the same thing to happen to myself. I didn’t want to set myself up for

And it was crazy to hear some of these stories and people. Tell me, your dad was. Best firemen I’ve ever seen in my life, and that was. Hard to really wrap my head around until I got on the job.

So I tested for about five years straight and I got shut down by Seattle time and time again. And then just realized while this. It’s just, isn’t going to happen for me. I was still on some hiring lists and then got into paramedic school. Privately. Got about halfway through, and then I got the.

Then I got the offer, went through and. Almost initially after I got into the field, I started to. See things that, affected me that I would take home. And for me, it’s always the family’s reactions. So those are. The moments that get me on calls to this day. When I see it.

Mom, shriek and whale. And. You I feel like you don’t have. You must not have a hard, if that doesn’t affect you a little bit.

Stack: Yeah. If it doesn’t affect you at all, or if it doesn’t affect you A little bit. Yeah. Almost heartless because I remember calls like that and I remember screams like that and they stick with

Cody: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. And I think I understood a little bit more about my dad through that process. I think my whole journey in the fire service personally has been. Just searching for an understanding of my life’s background and my family and where it went wrong because. some ways.

I grew up in a broken home, even though both my folks were firefighters, they had good jobs.

And my mom really did her best with me, but she was trying to raise a man. That What’s the rebellious. And I put her through a lot of grief growing up. But I think it all came to a head for me when I got in and then I started actually doing the job. And understanding what was happening around

It was. It was quite the experience.

Stack: So you’re five years into the fire service now.

Cody: Yes.

Stack: And your firefighter paramedic,

Cody: Yeah. So I got the offer and I actually had to drop out of school to take the offer and took it, got through, spend a couple of years.

On a busy engine. And then went through my department’s paramedic program.

Which took about 10 years. So I’ve been a medic now for about a year.

Stack: Okay. And then, like you say, your chief comes to you and says, Hey, I need a five to seven minute video and you delve into it and you find a There’s no way in hell. You can cover this topic in five to seven

Cody: Yeah. Yeah, I did. I knew that pretty quick. I was just trying to be tactful on how I was going to break

Because I don’t like the, when people assign me things, I don’t like to disappoint them. I like that. Do everything I can I’ll make it that much better if I can. And I knew we had something special after about four months in. And realized that, wow, I’ve never heard anybody talk about this kind of stuff to this extent and be this.


Stack: have to imagine that You felt the same way.

I did when I first, when I had my first five interviews. And I I was trying to bank a couple episodes in, and I listened to these guys or guys and gals actually in. A, I was blown away by the fact that they were willing to step up and Their story out there.

But be that, that some of the things they were going through and some of the feelings they were having, it just, It comes home to you and you realize we, we all are going through this stuff.

Cody: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, it. It made me feel very It didn’t make me feel alone. When I was listening to all these words. In fact, I felt encouraged. I felt wow. There’s a lot of,

No, because I silently dealt with a lot of this stuff myself, I have a fiance. I You know, I have a mom, 30 years. Firefighter medic. I have people I can talk to and I do talk to. But hearing that I wasn’t alone within my. Own department was encouraging to me. And it also made it that much more important.

I had to tell myself, don’t fuck this up.

Stack: Yeah. There’s that pressure. Right?

I, And I found the same thing.

I, my first five episodes were.

Not all focused in my department, but once the word got out.

that I was doing this project or this podcast, it was a project at the time, but, and people started.

People in my own department.

county just came out of the woodwork and I quickly realized that it, I could do a show just on my department and I might not run out of material.

Cody: right,

Stack: realized that I needed it to be a national project because everyone in the fire service is feeling this.

Cody: Right.

Stack: And so it’s been this eyeopening thing of how. Similar yet different. Every story is.

Cody: Yes, absolutely. Yeah, and I worked tirelessly on this thing. I killed myself over this project. Figuratively. I put probably 600 hours into it. I worked on it every single day in some way, shape or form for about eight months. And I was also going through my own shit during that time and, trying to figure out a balance and I think.

Everything that I was dealing with all the issues that I was having on the job, having those feelings that a lot of us have, I think I funneled it all into the project. Basically everything got put on hold or all my aggression, anything I had to say, basically got put into this documentary, all that energy funneled to

So then when it finished. was hit pretty hard with the reality of wow, I actually have to work out. A lot of my own shit

And that’s where I’m at now, but it was a life changing. It was a life changing experience

Stack: Again, that’s another ironic.

Similarity between us because as I started working on this project myself, I started my own therapy. And I, cause I get to the point where.

I’m 10 years in basically, and I knew.

I wasn’t handling these calls correctly, and I had my own personal life that was just in shambles. And, I’m

Just Coming out of that.

part of my life. And I’m still adding stuff from the from the job into whatever you want to call it, this picture that’s in my head.

And I knew I had.

to do something because a couple of friends at work. A couple of coworkers would notice that something wasn’t right. And it got to the point where I just couldn’t get through a shift without, you

At some point.

getting emotional about something. It usually wasn’t related to the job. It was just, everything was just there ready prime to explode on me. And so that’s when I finally said, yeah, I need some help. And so it’s coincided with the show and my own journey is running parallel to And. I pour a lot of my energy into this, into the show outside of work as well. And.

It’s interesting to hear you say that because there, again, another similarity between the stories.

Cody: Yeah. And it’s, and I’m sure you. Deal with this too. I didn’t really know how to respond to a lot of people. A lot of people reach out and, I don’t have any peer support training. I’m not a mental health counselor. You. I don’t know shit. In regard to that.

So that’s been overwhelming too, it’s not that I don’t have gratitude or I’m not happy that people, feel comfortable enough to come to me, but it’s a lot, it’s a lot when you don’t have any training in that aspect. And it’s a lot when. Suddenly everybody feels comfortable.

Tell him telling you how they feel.

Stack: Oh, Yeah.

It’s it is a lot. I can very, I can verify that statement. It’s a lot because.

Yeah, you put yourself out there, you make yourself available and you have to, after you do something like this,

Cody: Yeah.

And I don’t know why in my mind, I thought that I would be in the background making this whole thing. I didn’t put myself in it. I think there might be like one tiny clip of me in I didn’t give any interviews, I really wanted to just be in the background for this. And now that it’s done, it’s now it’s out there for the world to see.

And we’ve been getting reached To buy. People from all over the world and it’s great. It’s, it’s enlightening. But it’s overwhelming at times too. So I’m still trying to figure out that balance.

Stack: Yeah. My

my buddy who runs another podcast and he gave me a lot of information about how to, the equipment and set up and.

He did say when he listened to my show, when he listened to my idea and he listened to a couple of the shows, the raw audio shows.

He has only replied to me. was You better be ready.

And I didn’t understand what he meant.

And now I’m starting to understand what he meant by you. Better be ready and.

I don’t know if you or I could have ever been ready for the response that we’ve gotten.

Cody: I know I couldn’t have been. Yeah. Yeah, I couldn’t have been at all. And, I’ve worked on this thing for so long. And I’m so insecure about my own work, so w by the time it came down to actually show it to. Our command staff and the department, I said, look, I think I’m ready to show you what I have because I put so much time, energy.

And effort into it that at that point I’d become attached to it it become

A piece of art that I’m working on. And I didn’t want to get too much further into it without them seeing it Cause I was afraid What are they going to say When they see it Oh you got to cut this out You got to change that We can’t put that in And I just kept it the way it was And I said look

When it got done, I went to the front of the room and I said, all I slammed down my pen and paper and I said all right Questions thoughts concerns What do you want me to change

And the room was just silent. And I didn’t understand why I was like oh great

And and I said, what do you want me to change chief And he says I don’t want you to change a damn And that was pretty interesting to me, I’m sure you. Many people can relate.

The fire service likes to keep everything close to the chest, as far as what they put out there to the world And it’s all about image and the image is wrong and you’re going to hear it from the department. And I didn’t hear any

Stack: From what I saw. From what I saw.

In the movie and The interview.

that was done, the interview parts that were done with your fire chief. I admire that guy immensely.

from what I’ve, From what I gathered from those parts. He gets

Cody: Definitely gets

Stack: And so it’s so fresh to, to here. A fire chief.

At that point just get it. And so I was very impressed.

with what he had to say and how he handled it. The interviews.

Cody: Oh, I was, I’m still blown away by it by the support He’s offered to D encouragement that he’s. Shown he’s a Fireman’s chief. You really is. And


Stack: a term we throw around. So that’s nice

Cody: Yeah. And the funny, the funniest part was he. He changed a lot of minds when you came on, you know how it comes when somebody gets brought up to be a chief in a department, Somebody somewhere is going to have something to say about it and how they think it’s going to go. And I think he surprised all of us and I’m certainly encouraged by how supportive he’s been.

And how he’s taken this issue to the forefront. This is. An actual priority for him and the future of our department. And I think it’s. It’s changed a lot of minds and it’s encouraged a lot of people to get help that have been struggling. And he knows it’s an issue and that needs to be talked about. And for me, that’s.

More than encouraging. So I couldn’t be more proud of my chief and thankful for. Everything he’s done in regards to this project and everything else. We lucked out there.

Stack: Yeah, and you have me jealous we’re in the process of looking for a new fire chief right now, and a.

Man, if we could find that needle in the haystack.

That you guys did, that would be, that’d be just Phenomenal.

for us and it’s going to be a tough search, but that’s, that is definitely something that a new fire chief at any department should emulate.

Cody: Oh, yeah. Yeah. He’s got his work cut out for him. It’s an uphill battle, we’re we’re infamously known in this region for. Coming up short on our budgets and having to. Give more back to the city to meet those budget requirements. And it’s tough because we need every dollar we can get right now.

So we’re hoping the film can

also show some of these politicians and people in charge of our city and our community that like, this is a problem. But we’re. Robbing Peter to pay Paul. And, or we’re just trying to play catch up. There’s just not enough support financially for the fire department these days.

In our region.

Stack: Let’s talk about the film a little bit, and I don’t want to give too much away because I want my people in my audience to. To watch the film. And I think that it’s, it would be impactful if they didn’t know. People’s stories from the film.

Even though we could talk for, We could talk for hours.

on the stories that are in the film. I just, I think that can be left for somebody to watch the film to learn these stories and, and.

to learn from those stories. I think that what I’d like to do.

is just hit on some topics that we have in. That are similar on the podcast and in the movie. And I think we start right where you

I mean, we’re talking about overtaxing employee or firefighters. We are. We’re doing more with less or more with the same amount. If we’re lucky.

And I know I can, for my department.

we just recently switched from a 24 48 schedule with a Kelly to the 56 with We’re doing a day on day off, day on, day off, day on four off. And it’s just a special kind of tired when you get to that point. And so now we’re losing people. We’re losing ALS providers and we’ve gone to a one-on-one model, which is increased run runs for every unit.


We’re still, Some of our guys.

actually took a pay cut to come to that schedule because that’s The way it worked out.

And unfortunately it was these young guys who have five years or less on the job.

And I can’t help, but encourage these people. If the grass is greener somewhere, you’ve got to go for it. And then that also handcuffs us even more.

And that’s what you got. You guys aren’t seeing the same set of problems, but it’s a very similar set of problems where you’re doing more with less. Correct.

Cody: Correct? Yes. We haven’t added a. Response unit. No. A primary response unit and years in our population has been increasing. Our call volume has gone up our homeless populations, tripled. We’re in some hurting times right

So I, I wanted, I didn’t want that. Environment to be looked over in the film. I needed to spell that out. This is a contributing factor to people’s mental health right now. , I really wanted that environment to be captured because it’s. It’s unavoidable. Those are circumstances that have contributed to people’s mental health today. And I think we did a good job of not beating that up in the film. We definitely talk about it. But we wanted to talk about everything.

And I wanted to keep the film under an hour if possible. And I’m just over an

Stack: you’re just right there.

Cody: Yeah. And it got to the point where I wanted to cut stuff out and they were like, you can’t cut anything out. Like just can’t. You need to add, I didn’t want to add, there was a happy medium there.

Stack: And you cover it Well,

because you mentioned the increases in violent crimes, you mentioned increases in just general runs. Some of your guests

Cody: Yeah.

Stack: Yeah.

I call them guests that are in The movie, discuss it themselves, how they’re just running more with less. And the one that really stood out to me for your area was that increase in arson crime.

Cody: Yeah, it’s scary.

Stack: was it 82%? I believe.

Cody: 82% was when I took that part of the news. Article out, I believe it’s gone up since then. And our our homicide rate has increased by 200%. Um, in the region. The number just came out today.

Um, so.

Stack: in homicide and you guys are seeing. Most of those calls.

Cody: Yes. Yes. That’s homicide. That’s not people shot.

Stack: Right.

Cody: We have shooting almost every day. And I think fire departments all over the region and really all over the country are probably feeling. The. The fallout over, the deep on the police movement. We were certainly feeling ended up here at where basically some laws have been passed in our region that have handcuffed police and not let them respond to the calls that they want to go on.

We haven’t increased. Heightened awareness. For our region right now, because we know that we’re alone, we don’t have the support. From the police that we once had and the police are understaffed. We’re understaffed. It’s a kind of demoralizing environment. In fire departments all over the country right

As a result of.

Politics and. Certain laws that have been passed that we’re certainly feeling in this region. It’s not avoidable. It needs to be talked about.

Stack: The other thing that of course the other similarities were the stigmas that we have

Why we’re not asking for help. And I think that it’s the same thing across the board that I’m finding on this show. You were the helpers we don’t ask for help. That’s one of the themes that you heard over and over in your movie.

Cody: Everybody comes into the fire service. Like they have something to prove and most of us do. But. At what point do you just admit. The things that you see around your body. And to, never admit that, then I think you’re setting yourself up for failure because it’s going to affect you.

And it’s going to affect people around you and people get burned out and people get to a point where they’ve seen too much. And. That, that stigma. It’s still alive and well today. And. I think it’s gotten better, but there’s just things that aren’t are still not talking Our department. This

One of them. No, we’re seeing an increase in people. Finally, For one, acknowledging that there is an issue. But people are killing themselves that this is an under utilized. Resource available to. Firefighters. I think that. We can only avoid this for so long.

Stack: You mentioned a stigma and I had a guest tell me one time that he didn’t think the stigma was external. He thought the stigma was more internal. What do you think about something like that? That kind of thought.

Cody: I’m guilty of it myself, I’ve been on calls that really bothered me, but, I wanted to hold it together for other people and or at least in my mind thinking that’s helping, being the strong person that people can lean on. Even the strong It’s just a matter of

So for me it was more of a passive mechanism. It was just something that I didn’t realize that I was doing. Wasn’t a conscious thought of oh, be strong and act like this doesn’t bother you. That, that wasn’t what was happening with me. It was more passive than I think a lot of people that’s where they live now. They live in this..

Stigma that exists that they don’t even really know this happened. Or behaviors they exhibit that they don’t even realize they’re doing. I’m still trying to understand the stigma, to be honest with you. I know the old school stigma. It’s very active. It’s not passive.

No, we don’t talk about this, man. The fuck up. This is a. This is what we do. And you can say that as much as we want, but. The bottom line is what we see is not normal. The events that we go through and the stress levels that lack of sleep, all of that is not normal.

And it’s completely okay to acknowledge that.

So that’s how I feel about the stigma.

Stack: So it’s Okay.

to acknowledge the things aren’t normal. How are you doing that for yourself on a day to day or shift by shift basis?

Cody: I’ve known it’s not normal. A long time. When I was, I think I was three months in As a probie and, went on a call where we worked in overdose and, mom came in and realized what was happening and just watched her reaction. And then it was just like,

Family member after family members, they just kept showing up we’re right in the middle of a pretty dynamic code. And. Before you know it, you haven’t even processed like them processing it. You’re working, you’re in a stressful environment and people all around you, or it’s hitting them They’re processing it as it’s happening. You don’t really get that opportunity.

Until after you leave. And I went home that day. And I heard that next morning. I felt like shit. I felt really bad for this family. And. I now realize that that’s what triggers me. Putting, having empathy and putting yourself in nuts, your patient’s shoes.

At your patient’s family, she was going, man. If my son was get on the floor right now, and eight people are pumping on his chest and, trying to wake You know, that would really. That destroyed so for me, it’s a battle of not taking it too personally. I try not to.

I try not to hold on to. The blame or the guilt, or w asking the questions, why. Most us are , never going to know why. Which is a problem for me, it’s been a personal issue for me, my whole life. Cause I, I searched for the answer to why, I want to know. What led to it?

And what got people to that point. And sometimes you just never going to get the answer to that question. That can be discouraging. But, for myself, especially after working on this film, I had a stigma within myself. I was afraid to ask for help after putting this out there and then having people, watch it and say, oh, you did such a great job.

It’s going to change things and. I still feel the same, but I was battling my own demons and, going through my own stuff right at the end of this film. And then I felt. A responsibility. To stand up and say I’m not going to get help because how would that look?

You just made this film about all these people that told you about how they got time off. And now you’re getting time off, It was. And then I had to wake myself up and, my fiance recognize it early and said, It’s okay to. Not be And maybe I should take my own advice in this film.

And, I ended up having to make that decision and. Put that. I don’t even know what to call it. Stigma or pride aside. To get myself some help. And not really worried about what people think.

No. If you’re not doing okay. You’re not doing okay. It doesn’t matter if you just made a film about. Mental health and PTSD. I’m not doing good and I’m not doing good.

Stack: . The other thing that.

that I thought you did a good job.

on, and this is the one thing that I’ve been talking about quite a bit is the suicides.

I don’t think the general public realizes.

The number of firefighters that are killing themselves in, on a yearly basis. And

The stat you used in the movie was, I’m not sure how many years was it? 10 years

Cody: What’s that?

Stack: The statistic on the number of firefighters. I think it was, I thought it was over a 10-year period, roughly that you used in the

Cody: Yet. 20, I think it started at 2001 and I got these numbers from firefighter behavioral health Alliance. And even they, admit You know, we don’t have the full picture. Because a Suicides are not reported.

Stack: No, I, from I’m a firm believer that the majority of the suicides for firefighters aren’t reported and. discussed on a couple of episodes and.

I’m not sure the reason why, I don’t know.

if it’s, if it goes back to an embarrassment or if it goes back to a monetary basis.

Cody: And if there’s, if you don’t ask the questions, you don’t really know. It’s. really a bummer that we can’t. Figure out a better way to track these things because they’re happening. It’s

You know, and I

Stack: very real.

Cody: And I think the first step is just acknowledging That it’s happening and it’s a problem.

Stack: That’s Exactly. what I’ve been saying. Not just on the show, but to people in

And I don’t know.

I know you’ve listened to a couple of episodes. I don’t know if you under, if he knew the Genesis for why I started the show.

Cody: Not really.

Stack: We had. I started

Instagram page just to kind of highlight issues within the department and it Ran out of control for a little bit. And so I came around to a focus. Oh,

We had a period of time where we had a number of suicides in what we call the DMV that the DC Metro So DC, Maryland, Virginia.

One day a guy from a kind of a local adjoining,

Is a volunteer fire company, but he was a volunteer fire a couple of years ago, a fireman a couple of years ago, but he killed himself. And that turned out to be number five in our area for a year.

Cody: Wow.

Stack: so it was between volunteering career and it ran from rookie to tenured firefighter and.

Those were the five that were reported in a year. I, Every time. I see.

someone see something that says a. Firefighter X died unexpectedly. I almost assume that was suicide.

Cody: So do I.

Stack: And so at that point, I.

decided these guys can’t die in vain. Something good has to come from these deaths. And that’s why I started pondering. All right, What can I do?

And it turned, that’s what turned into this podcast.

So when you talked about suicide in the film, that does strike straight home with me because that’s the basis for why I decided to do this podcast.

and then you have a couple of your guests in the film, discuss their experiences or attempts at suicide.

And again, I’m not going to get into specifics cause I want my audience to watch your film. But it’s Very real,

and it’s very real across the country.

Cody: Yeah. You’ve done. You’ve done a really tremendous thing with this podcast. It Yeah. From the bottom of my heart I, when I first heard it, I was like, wow, I really Because listen to this And a couple of your episodes. Talked about relationships and you

Working with their wives and how their wives would notice things. And just a lot of it, all of it. Talk to me. So I’m glad we met. From that thing. And I think you’re doing a really good thing.

Stack: Where do you. do you see the future of mental health and a fire service? I think I have some ideas, but I’d like to, I like to bring that topic up with people when I talked to them.

Because I think it, I think there’s some value in discussing the future, obviously, because, we want to know where we’re going.

Where do you, what would you like to see change in general in the fire service? When it comes to mental

Cody: A lot, I want to see a lot changed. Honestly, in. I think it starts with workers’ compensation. Yes, we, in our region, we have. Something set up with our state to where you can claim PTSD is an on the job injury. However, the process of getting that approved. Needs reformed and it needs reform bad.

And the other thing is for some of the stuff that we’re battling right now is yeah, I can go see a psychologist, but they have to be affiliated with my insurance company or L and I won’t fork out. Any money for it? The problem is we might have seven. Providers in our region.

That are booked up months ahead You know, that’s not good enough. You need someone, you need them right now. And I want to see that change. I want some reform. Into the process of Oh, Jai within our city.

In our state.

Stack: let’s talk about that Real

quick for, and it’s not real quick, cause it’s I have questions about that. The OGs. Oh, J I and that’s on the job injury, correct?

Cody: Correct.

Stack: So You guys have a system set up where if there’s a trauma or if there’s PTs. That can be deemed on the job injury in my right.

Cody: It can. Yes. But we all, I think within the fire service, understanding that a lot of that’s accumulative

it’s not just one incident. It’s a combination of several, I

Stack: think.

It’s almost never a solo incident.

Cody: And the way it’s set up right now, they want a specific incident. So really, if you’re out on the lines and things bother you and, write down these call numbers, actually keep track of this stuff. This is exposures and you need to treat it as such because if you don’t.

And you get into a point where you’ve had enough and you need to actually claim this injury. They’re going to want a specific incident and that doesn’t always work. My, my recommendation to people is get ahead of it. Document. This stuff. And just, whether it’s a note on your phone, something, but have some kind of documentation of backup.

The fact that you were even on this call that bothered you, because it might come down to you proving that you were not only there, but that it was a traumatic event that it bothered you. I wish it wasn’t as hard as it is, but

Stack: It’s funny, funny, ironic you say you wish it wasn’t as hard as it is, but at least you have the option Where you are to find find a call.

and maybe have a case for an on-the-job injury.


a foreign, that’s a foreign language where I am.

Cody: That’s crazy. No one that’s crazy. That’s, I don’t want to take anything we have for granted because I’ve only been in the fire service for five years, I don’t have 20 years on the job and I haven’t worked all over the country. I’ve only had the exposure to my limited amount of experience that I have.

Stack: It’s the same here. And that’s exactly why I’m blown away by the fact that when I heard that in the movie, I was like, oh my

They can actually do that. And I’ve made

Cody: a state level.

Stack: But I’ve made this argument, even at the local level


battalion chiefs or captains or whatever that, if you get a traumatic call and We all know.

what a traumatic call is. Yes. I will stand by the fact

that any call can be traumatic. It just is how it affects you personally. Those marked calls that the infant CPR, the. The fatal fires. , LOD D whatever it is. One of those that route would really knock anybody on their ass.

I’ve made the argument that’s an injury and that they should be put on injury leave and given whatever resources they need to start that recovery process.

Cody: Absolutely. And I think the best thing on your side is numbers. How many people are actually taking off time. How many people are going out sick? And you don’t have a good system to report that because they’re not.

Acknowledging that it exists.

Stack: No. And when I make that suggestion. Laughed at or were laughed at because there’s oh, that’ll never happen.

They don’t even bother to entertain the idea.

Cody: And

Stack: I think that when I say.

where we might want to see the fire service go with mental health, I think what you guys have out there and we can make

Cody: that

Stack: On

we can filter that down from the state level to the local level. And we can start to determine that these are injuries and. And we can do something about it. We can give some time off. We can get coverage, at least for the rest of the shift or whatever That’s the that’s I think the starting

Cody: Absolutely. Yeah, I couldn’t I feel terrible that, there’s other regions like yours in particular. That don’t recognize the stuff that’s happening. Cause that’s your biggest hurdle. And, I’m glad that we’ve made progress in that aspect. Now it’s just fine tuning things.


I feel really terrible for people that can’t claim what’s actually

Stack: How successful are your firefighters in, in, in getting that. Classified as an on-the-job injury.

Cody: Right now, it’s it seems to be kind of 50, 50. If you don’t keep track of. A specific call everything like, keeping those records. Can bite you in the ass later. I know that firsthand. And like I said, that the other issue is the affiliated providers. Like I said, if you have a provider that has a license,

And practices mental health and you go see them. But your insurance or LNI or Worker’s compensation. Won’t recognize them because they’re not in their network of people that take your insurance and then just, oh you can’t see We’re not going to compensate you for anything that you spent there.

That’s a problem. You either need to increase your amount of providers in our region, or you need to have some kind of exception to that rule. Because otherwise you’re just going to turn people off and getting home. Oh, they don’t take my insurance. Fuck I’m just going to keep working till I can’t

Stack: Yeah, cause $150 a pop for it for a therapy session is that’s hurt. That hurts you pocket.

Cody: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. No matter who you are.

Th that all increases and it stacks up over time. Very quickly.

Stack: I had

Cody: you know what, you’re out thousands.

Stack: I had a discussion with Robbie he’s in Tennessee now, but by way of California originally, and. He he applied for.

Short term disability for.

PTs and was denied even though The doctor

had documented everything and had diagnosed him with PTs.

The insurance company said, No, you don’t qualify.

And they didn’t give him a short-term disability.

But when he came back,

to the same insurance company later that year, too.

To renew his life insurance because he had another child And he wanted add money.

through his life insurance. They denied it based on his PTs diagnosis.

Cody: So they’re basically expecting him to kill himself. So they won’t.

Give him a life insurance

Stack: Yeah.


Cody: it doesn’t exist.

Stack: Exactly. And so that, that was like,

That was just such a Slap in the face to him and to to anybody that’s.

gone through that.

Cody: Especially if you read between the lines and you’re like, what does this statement actually

Stack: It’ll be cheaper if you kill yourself.


Cody: that’s great.

Stack: And that’s That’s and that’s an insurance thing. I know that’s not.

a department thing, but it’s still part of the process.

Cody: Yeah. Yeah, that’s terrible. I think exposure to people outside of our profession is paramount. I’m hoping to get some of that. Happening with this film, give people actually. Some eyes on what’s actually happening.

Yeah. That’s all I hope for. And as far as where I see it going, And in our. Department and our region, I’d like to see technology utilized a little better. During COVID, we couldn’t even enter our stations without, Taking our temperature. Putting picking up the iPad and, saying yes I don’t have a fever. I have not been around anyone with COVID. We had to do that to enter the building.

Stack: Oh, yeah.

So do we? Yeah.

Cody: Yeah. So how hard would it be to just maybe add a check box of a mental health check when you come in something that’s just. That’s not that active. It’s just a checkbox that you’d check that. Yeah. I would like some resources. If you have a peer support team member.

In specific. A specific individual you’d have that option to check their name, utilize this technology a little better in that aspect. I think it’s gonna help us. That’s something I’d also like to see.

Stack: Yeah, dad.

I like that idea.

of that dope issue I see with that is going back to how honest are we going to be with each other at that point? And I guess if you get to that, if you’re At that point.

where you really want some help, you’re going to be honest, but. You both of you. And I know that if you’re not ready for it, you’re not going to say it anyway.

Cody: Yeah. Yeah. I got to a point where I couldn’t really fight it anymore.

Stack: Oh, same

Cody: Yeah, my fiance was, saying, look, you’re not yourself. This is not stuff anybody wants to hear, but. You need to hear it. Especially if it’s gotten to that point. I’m thankful I have an opportunity to. Get some help work on myself. And try to make it out of this thing alive.

Because really that’s what we’re all after. We. We love the fire service and, we. We put our whole lives into this, but there’s a life after you leave

Stack: I think forget who said it in the film, but they end up I’ll paraphrase because My memory is shot sometimes, but in the last night listening at one point. Paraphrasing, the comment was made. This is a fantastic job. It’s a great job, but it is killing us.


Cody: Yeah.

Stack: I don’t think enough firefighters.

realize that let alone people outside the fire service realize what all is affecting us. In this job.

From actual fire to the traumas to our gear everything to the sleep list. We haven’t even talked about sleep and nutrition and all that stuff that adds into it. So everything is geared to kill us. Essentially.

And that’s part of the job. But there’s some things that can be taken into account and can be mitigated. If a department can be proactive

Cody: Yeah, no, I’m very proud of my department.

Stack: Yeah, And that’s kinda what I was getting.

through that, that listening to your fire, chief, listening to the guys that are sharing their story, listening to Your mental health.

specialist. I forgot her name. I apologize. Oh,

Cody: Jenny DACA. Jenny Gregory.

Stack: she calls herself a trauma ologist, or is that what or something to that effect? I forgot.

Cody: She’s a traumatologist.

Stack: which I’d never heard

that phrase before that name before. So that’s that was interesting to hear it and phrase it that way. What she’s doing for you guys.

and with you guys is fantastic. It’s some wonderful work.

Cody: Oh, yeah. She’s been a breath of fresh air for us. I’m sure you probably know what I’m talking about is, one of the hardest things, when going to see a counselor is laying

know, explaining your job, they really don’t haven’t put any time or effort into learning what we do and what we see. That’s probably not a good counselor for you. So when you, for me, it’s a relief when you go into a room and you’re like, I don’t have to tell you what I do. You know what I do?

I don’t have to. Explain to you, what I saw and, correlate that back with how it bothers me. You already understand that. So having her. And she’s seen a lot of shit. She’s been all over the world to all sorts of different wars zones.

Stack: In the movie, she was just going to, to the Ukraine. Correct?

Cody: Yeah. Yeah. So we went to the Ukraine in the middle of filming for that and a. It’s just dozens and dozens of war torn. Places in the world. And she’s got stories, for days of a traumatic stuff that she herself has seen. So not having to, like I said, lay that scene for her was beneficial to us and

Or especially to me personally, And she’s done a lot of good for our department in that aspect and trying to change things and getting people trained and increasing our resource list too. That’s a big thing that just needs to happen. You. Luckily people reached out all over the region after seeing the film, that our providers that do have services that we can benefit,

And I just pass them along to our safety chief and. Hopefully Adam into our list. that’s been awesome to see as well.

Stack: All right. So I want people to watch the film.

I’m going to direct everybody.

to the film as much as possible. Obviously we’ll link to it in the show notes. So they have a facility have a connection to make it as easy as possible. Oh, I will. I’ll put it out on Instagram and whatever. Whatever following I have, there can get ahold of So I want to end with those two questions that I ask everybody.

Ah, the first one being an everyday carry based on what, both, what we both call the title of our projects. So mine being the things we all carry. I just, I like to ask everybody about an everyday carry something you carry on your person that you feel naked without.

Cody: That’s a tough one. I was thinking about that one.

Stack: Yeah, I gave

you a week. I gave you a week heads and heads up.

on this one.

Cody: Yeah. gosh, can you give me a second?

Stack: Of course we can edit out all the dead air.

Cody: Good. Cool. Cause I’m looking for this book first. I was. I have this set aside.

Something that I got damn it. I thought about this and I couldn’t get an answer. Can you give me an example? And I’m hoping this is

Stack: For me, it used to be, have you ever heard of the skulls for hope?

He was one of my first.

Earliest guests and he makes these bracelets and they’re beaded bracelets, and there’s a skull on each one of them. And it’s just a suicidal Awareness.

and prevention thing that he does.

Because he went through dark times for himself after a call that really affected him. And So I wear a skulls for hope bracelet on my right arm and that’s every day.

So that’s been an everyday carry for me. And then once I started. My own therapy. I at the end of each session, we do some acupuncture and she just puts five needles in each ear for me. And it’s a, for me, it just brings a meditation. And so I sit there for 15, 20, 30 minutes and I just.

Meditate with these needles in my ear, but then she also puts these what she calls peas and I jokingly. Mistakenly called them beams the other day, but she puts these peas in a strategic spot in the back of my ear. And so they stay there between therapy appointments. And so I’ve been using that as my everyday carry cause I feel naked when those come off now.

Those are my examples.

Cody: Okay.

Stack: waste any more time for you now.

Cody: All right. I’d have to say my everyday carry is probably just my challenge coin. That was Given to me after I graduated a recruit academy from some instructors that still mean a lot to me. Become some really good friends of mine. And on the challenge coin is, One of our LOD DS

Who passed away on a call in 2013. And Eva’s. than life kind of individual. And then, I never met this guy, Looking into some of the stuff that he did, you sailing around the world, being all these different countries, backpacking, really actually inserting himself into a history all throughout the.

All throughout the world. It’s been a source of inspiration to me. So I carry his coin. I have tons of different challenge coins, and I’m not really a. The challenge going flipper, if you will. But that one’s special to me. Just because it, it does have his face on it and it’s just a reminder to just go above and beyond.

So that’s something I carry with me every

Stack: And for the for the non firefighters in the audience, a challenge coin is just that it’s a coin that, that you’re given for some sort of an accomplishment

Cody: Normally.

Stack: And. It, or there’s a tradition. If you’re out at a bar and someone slams down a challenge coin on the bar and you don’t have one, then you’re buying the next round is essentially the challenge.

So Just so everybody has a frame of reference. What that tradition is, and I think that’s a perfect one to have.

Cody: right.

Stack: So what about a book? What’s a book you want to suggest.

Cody: So a book that’s really stood out to me lately was actually recommended to me by my fiance. And it’s called inner child therapy. How to deal with your inner child. By Marine Jones and. It’s a short book. It’s actually only, I think like 26 minutes on audible. But really highlights a lot of stuff for me, all my trauma. Doesn’t just come from the job. I have a lot of family history. I’m sure you do too. I’m sure everybody does.

P PTSD is an accumulated thing. And for A lot of things stemmed from my childhood and growing up and things. I dealt with that I thought I dealt with that maybe I didn’t and here I am 34. Now I have to deal with them. So that book really broke it down for me to. To understand your past trauma and your upbringing and things that.

All weave into the fabric of who you are today. So I’ve found that book to be beneficial. And I listened to it.

Stack: Awesome. I will link that in the show notes, if, And if there’s

any way, actually, if you could send me a picture of the challenge corn, I can put that in there as well. So people can get a glimpse

Cody: Love to.

Stack: One thing I forgot to ask you. What’s what are your future plans?

Any more films in the works.

Cody: Yeah. So I’m definitely taking a break much needed break like I said, this thing really took the life out of me. And then when I was putting all my aggression into. Finishing it, and it became an obsession. Once that’s done and taken away from me, you have to

Um, So right now I’m taking a nice break. I’m going to go back and doing some still photography that I’m excited about doing, because that’s my little comfort zone. Doesn’t take a ton of after. For me and I get excited when I do it. I do have. Plans to. Pursue some more. Documentary.

Films. I eventually one day, I think I’d like to do something on the paying fire. And. Just because the story’s just insane. Even the events after the fire. And it’s a forgotten kale in our region, unfortunately.

Stack: No, like I said, I had to look it up. I had never

Cody: heard. Yeah. Yeah. And,

There was so much involved in that, and the arson and they knew who did it. And they had to track him down from Brazil. The white house got involved. Like it’s a really dynamic crime story as well. So I think I might. End up pursuing that someday. I would also like to maybe do a video.


He’s definitely ideas in the hopper.

Stack: And rest is good. Taking that breather. and taking that break and re-centering yourself is optimal, especially after something that intensive.

Cody: Yeah. And that’s what I’m focused on right now. Yes, I have plans for the future. I don’t know exactly what they are, but a. Right now it’s just, enjoy family. Try to recenter a little bit. And get back on back on check. Cause I definitely don’t feel on track right now. This has been quite the world window emotions, making mistakes.

Stack: Yeah. And you’re, you’re doing this show, but you’re doing press constantly. I’m assuming.

Cody: Yeah, that’s been really difficult. I’m pretty uncomfortable in front of a camera anyway. Th this is different though. This is more personal, this is just a conversation. And so that was why I was anxious to do something like this. You don’t get to see the actual real side of the human element. I feel like in a lot of the press,

Stack: No, you don’t. No it’s the nuts and bolts and the why should we watch.

Cody: Right.

Stack: Yeah, I have to I can’t thank you enough. This is, this has been a great conversation. I appreciate the conversation and I appreciate the film and I appreciate That the mission and the message from the film as I mean we’re. We’re right there. We’re together and we’re doing the same. We were doing the same thing. And if, anytime you want to come on and you want to talk about it or you want.

W you want to send somebody my way feel free because I love what you did there, man. I love what you did.

Cody: Thank you so much, man. I really appreciate it. And I love what you’re doing. I really do. One of my new favorite podcasts for sure.

Stack: I appreciate that. And like I said, I’m going to direct try to direct this audience of mine towards your film and I’ll put it out there as much as possible.

Cody: Thank you very much, man. I appreciate everything.

Stack: All right, we’ll go enjoy the rest of your day, sir. Aye. I will talk to you in the future at some

Cody: sounds great.

Stack: All right, man,

Cody: Take care.

All right. Sweet.

Stack: That was a good talk, man. I appreciate

Cody: Yeah, It was.

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