I have never served in the U.S. Armed Services. I have though, had the honor of serving in the Fire Service for almost two decades, most of that time was spent as a full-time Fireﬁghter/Paramedic. When I walked out of high school, possibly more due to the administration not wanting me to come back than any effort of my own, I had my enlistment paperwork ﬁlled out and in my hand. As I drove home, my plan was to stop by the USMC recruiters ofﬁce and hand it in. I never made it. Before I reached the parking lot, my cell phone rang and I was offered a job at my local ﬁre department. My path led to a little bit of college and possibly the most rewarding career in civilian life. During my career, I had the honor of honing my skills and serving with some of the most admirable men and women, both on the ﬁre line and with the SRT’s or Specialized Response Teams.
I became proﬁcient in skills that I never dreamed possible in the Fire Service. I loved being a ﬁreﬁghter and a paramedic. I eventually became the acting Lt. for my shift. The feeling of self-
worth one can get from being in the position of helping others is a high that no drug can come close too. If any of my math teachers saw me in my engineer duties, they would think the world was ending. Controlling a piece of ﬁre apparatus when pumping a ﬁre; the hydraulics, math and fast thinking when problems arise was a rush. Not to mention, if I screwed up, my guys on the other end of the hose would be in a bad situation. I became certiﬁed as a Wildland Fireﬁghter, something I never thought I would be in the physical condition to do. I was selected as a member of the Department to attend all the Water Rescue classes and became skilled in Ice, Swift Water and Dive Rescue. I ran the Department’s NHTSA program that ensured the correct installation and transportation of child safety seats. I also worked as one of the Communication Specialists ensuring that the radios, pagers and mobile computers were maintained to ensure the ability to communicate in an emergency.
All of that paled in comparison to the duties I ﬁlled as a member of the Department and eventually, County Honor Guard. A few years after I secured a full-time position with my Department, we lost one of our Brothers. He passed away from cancer that was deemed to have been contracted “In The Line of Duty.” He was a character to say the least and I will never forget that last day, the entire shift went to his house while on duty. I can still see him laying in his bed and can hear those words we whispered to each other. Before I left his side, I leaned in and told him, “Rest, we’ve got it from here.” A few hours later, the “Silver Fox” passed away. That is when the realization of exactly how unprepared we were to do our Duty and fulﬁll the need to lay our Brother to rest, appropriately anyways. We didn’t even have Class-A Dress Uniforms. A ton of money was dropped by the administration and most of the members were outﬁtted with what could pass as dress blues. We had a plethora of Brothers and Sisters that stood in for us as the Honor Guard and even standby crews to take our calls. This was the hardest day of my career, hands down. The day was bad because we had lost a Brother, but it was made worse by how unprepared we were to take care of one of own. It would never happen again. For some reason I had a recurring image in my head, I remembered back to a paper that my father and I had written while I was in High School on “The Old Guard.” There was no reason for us to be unprepared, and it would never happen again.
A few of us got together and decided that what was missing from our line of work was an Honor Guard. It was an uphill ﬁght, as it was not going to be done on the cheap. But if the county can funnel manpower and endless streams of cash up to SRTs, then they can just as well do the same to make sure that we take care of ourselves when the worst happens. We began by using our Dept. Class-A’s and started to grow into our own from there. We found the funding literally in the couch cushions to secure our own set of ceremonial ﬂags and polished hand tools. We wrote our own policies and procedures for every possible situation. We became the go to group for any of the paperwork that needed to be ﬁlled out by the members and maintained them to make sure they were up to date to ensure prompt disbursement of Line of Duty Death Beneﬁts. We had a team that was responsible for accompanying the Chief and clergy to make notiﬁcations and ensure that the wishes of the fallen were followed. We practiced marching and Flag procedures on our own time. We started to requests to post the Colors at local events like the National Prayer Day breakfast. As the standard bearer carrying the American Flag, I led the 4th of July parade in town one year. We changed our footwear the next day.
Eventually, the other Departments in the area started forming up their own Honor Guards and doing the same things that we had with their own ﬂair tossed in. This led to the creation of the County Honor Guard. As a whole we adopted the USMC Dress Blues as our uniform so that we would stand out from our home departments. Again, we created our own policies and procedures, acting as the support group for all the local agencies. They could lean on us for advice and support in the background or have us take the lead and let them to grieve. Whatever was needed, we were there.
To be continued...
Bro. Brian Schimian is Life of Member A.O. Fay #676 in Highland Park Illinois and the Medinah Shriners - Lake County Shrine Club. He was also the Past Master Counselor of DeMolay - Lakes Chapter in 1995. Brian is a father of two children. He is also the lead contributor to the Brothers In Arms blog, a pro 2nd Amendment blog page. "Start Square, Finish Level"