This week on Most Heroic, I’ll be examining the life and career of the single most heroic person that I know. The man in question is a thirty year veteran of the Dallas Fire Department, where he worked as both a firefighter and a paramedic, rising up through the ranks to eventually become a lieutenant. For anyone else, that could be quite enough, but not for this gentleman. In his spare time, he’s worked as an all-but tireless volunteer for various causes and he’s become a master at some of his eclectic hobbies. He’s also been a loving husband to his wife of nearly twenty-five years; and he’s raised three sons, the first of whom is none other than yours truly.
Now I’m sure that some readers will assume that I consider my dad a hero just because he is my father. I can’t say that’s not true, because he is a great parent and I’ll be getting to that later, but there’s a lot more to the idea of him being a hero than just the fact that he raised me. He’s been a hero in more ways than one for decades now.
First there’s his career as a firefighter to consider. As I wrote a two weeks ago, firefighters have to do things that normal people pray that they never have to. In a way, our nightmares are their workplace. They have to go into buildings where sometimes the fire is slowly disintegrating the very foundations of the building they’re in and try to save everyone that they can. If there’s enough smoke, then they can be operating blind. Here’s a helmet cam video of what they really have to work with.
Dad eventually decided to become a paramedic and ride the ambulance for a few years, and in doing so he got to see some of the most horrific parts of life. He doesn’t like to talk about the worst incidents, but the few times he’s given me just a little of a glimpse into his daily life have haunted me for years. There have been gory car crashes, appalling spousal abuse, drug overdoses and related crimes, and a host of other morbid tragedies, and he’s had to take them all. That’s another thing that people don’t understand about firefighters and civil servants. They don’t just handle one case a day and go home. Their shifts last twenty-four hours, and they have to take all comers. Sometimes they’ll get multiple events in one night, and not get a minute of sleep in between.
Dad’s told me that if he never sets foot on the ambulance again, it’ll be too soon, but he’ll be the first to admit that not every moment was traumatizing. He was able to help a lot of people escape death while riding in the back, and believe it or not, he’s had to deliver no less than nine children. Each and every one of them were in the back of the ambulance.
After years of studying and tests, he finally was able to achieve the rank of lieutenant around ten years ago. As an officer, he’s in charge of the crew of his shift, as well as managing how the fires are fought and situations are handled. Not only is he responsible for trying to save the lives of the people in these disasters, but also for the lives and well-being of his team. That adds a hell of a lot of pressure for anyone, but he’s very well-suited to the role. Smart, tough, fair, and a problem-solver, he’s a natural for leadership.
But like I said, he’s a hero in more ways than one.
Dallas firefighters only need to work twenty-four hours out of seventy-two, so this means that he works only one day out of three. With all this free time, Dad dedicates it towards providing a good home for our family, and helping friends and extended family when they need it. His work ethic is practically Herculean, and it’s always been devoted to helping other people more than himself. He won’t pamper himself for a minute, but he’ll spend hours helping someone out if they need it. He may grumble to himself about inconveniences and how busy he is, but he’ll never say no to a friend.
When we were children and Mom decided to quit her job and stay home with us, Dad had to take up a second job mowing lawns during the summer for extra cash. Sometimes he’d do it for eight hours a day. Even with all this hard work, he never said no to spending time with us boys. He was always there for us. Whether we just wanted to play with him or had some special event going on, he always found the time to give it to us. He coached our soccer teams and little league baseball, and never missed a marching band performance if he could help it.
We’ve often joked that Dad has far too many hobbies, because they all keep him extremely busy, but he’s become a master at almost every one of them. I call him the blue-collar renaissance man. He is a master gardener and carpenter, excellent cook, and a decent mechanic as well. Though he studied physical education and economics in college, he’s developed a deep passion for U.S. history, especially the Civil War, and he’s always been a nature lover. The amazing thing is that he’s taught himself these subjects. He’s a living example that you can succeed at almost anything if you set your mind to it and work hard to accomplish your goal.
The funny thing about Dad is that he doesn’t consider himself as extraordinary as he really is. Though he’s probably saved hundreds of lives during his thirty-year tenure with the Dallas Fire Department, he doesn’t really think he’s a hero. He just shrugs and describes it as “all part of the job,” just like any superhero would do. He’s both humble and self-critical, always thinking that he can be better.
In a way, I guess you could say that my Dad is the reason I love heroes in the first place. Not only did he introduce me to Batman and Superman all those years ago, but he’s been one himself. As much as I love comics and movies about superheroes, I don’t really need them to get my fix of heroism. All I need to do is give Dad a call.
I’ve said it a thousand times, but I’ll say it again. I wouldn’t want anyone else to be my father.
John Blume is more than just heroic. He’s my superhero.