Thirty Years With a Blink of an Eye


CarolinaFireJournal - Gwen Shuford
Gwen Shuford
08/07/2015 -

Everyone at some point in their life will say, “Boy time flies,” and, for all of us at CFREJ, it has. 

At the same time, life can’t get any better if you are doing and working for people you admire and respect. We are.

As first responders, you take risks every day to look after our communities and you do it because there is some special purpose that God has given you to look after people.

 

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Over time, I have watched and it seems to me that first responders have to be some of the happiest and kindhearted people I have ever met.I have wondered so many times, why? The money doesn’t seem to be the motivation. The risk of losing your life and seeing others lose theirs has to be stressful. The families face uncertainties as well. It has to be a calling.

We also have the opportunity to partner with so many companies that provide products and services to keep our departments better equipped to do their job better and safer. The same holds true with the apparatus, loose equipment and service providers that sell to our Carolina departments. How grateful for those we have had the opportunity to get to know and to assist in selling their product or service. They too become like family and good friends. I miss those we have lost along the way — Hugh Ledford, Jack Slagle, Bob Fore, Tom Garrity, Jim Bowie, Rick Spake and many more.

Our columnists and contributing writers are second to none. They take their personal time to share their area of expertise in order to help each other. Most of them have a full time job and also serve as a firefighter or paramedic.                                                                                                                                 We are often told about an article our readers liked or that the journal was used in a training scenario. It is nice to hear, because after all, it is your publication. Special thanks have to go to Ken Farmer, which has been with us since the very beginning with, “Barnyard Management.”

This whole thing started 19 years ago when I was asked by R.B. Knight, founder/publisher to fill in at the South Carolina Fire Show, which is held in Myrtle Beach, so I did.  After those two days, walking around, looking at all the trucks and equipment, talking to the attendees and meeting the vendors — there was no doubt — I was hooked.  

If you or anyone you know is interested in sharing their knowledge with, “The Brotherhood,” I can be reached at 866-761-1292 Ext. 106 or [email protected].

Let’s see, where to start? It was the fall of 1995 and I was looking for work. I knew Gwen Shuford from a previous job and she recommended that I talk with R.B. Knight. He reluctantly hired me at the recommendation of Gwen. If any of you know Gwen, you know her persistence! I figured, what the hell, I’ll stay for a year and move onto something else. Well, 20 years later and I’m still here. I really do feel very fortunate for that; often people don’t get an opportunity to do what they have a passion for. Do I get paid for what I do? Yes, but trust me, I’m not getting financially rich, but am rewarded in many other ways.

I recall a conversation I was having with Gwen at one of the conferences a few years back when she said, “Man, I can remember when he had jet black hair. It is now 50 shades of grey!” It’s funny how much of a tightknit group the first responder community really is. The people that have a passion for it, well they do stick around. From the “boots on the ground,” the “brass,” instructors, the various manufacturers, dealers, reps, etc., we are truly one big family — maybe dysfunctional, but still family.

You might ask what happened in that first year? I realized that what we do at the Journal really has value. More importantly, I really started to understand the sacrifices that first responders go through and I appreciate them more every day. I recall Hurricane Floyd and the devastation, 9/11, medic Tim Hayes’ accident and the Charleston 9, to name a few. Although I come from a family of many volunteer firefighters and women’s auxiliary, I never realized what they really and truly were all about. I now have a very different perspective of the true heroes — our first responders. For that I want to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart and although I doubt I’ll make it another 20 years here, I would really like to think so!

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Issue 33.3 | Winter 2018

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