[As seen in Creston News Advertiser December 17, 2015]
The staccato of Darwin West’s voice reverberated throughout the room as he pointed to members of the crowd holding up little white cards. The tension rose, a steady thing you could practically feel in your chest.
Then, it was over. But the tension remained. This tension wasn’t because of a mounting fight among auction-goers. It wasn’t about silly words out of a person’s mouth. This tension was like magic because it increased every time the Creston Fire and Rescue bench went up for bid in the course of one night.
The Creston Fire and Rescue bench, a light-up red and white metal bench now sitting in front of Creston Fire Department, was a sign of the respect we as firefighters have in this little Iowa community. And, I thank every single person who has helped our cause.
The bench alone went for more than $7,500, split among about 10 individuals and organizations in the southwest Iowa area. That was almost a quarter of the more than $40,000 garnered from the benefit Creston Fire Department hosted in honor of two of our own, with the auction by West and Frey Auctioneers, dinner by Burnt Reynolds BBQ and music by Eric Shawler.
Mick Landers, the Creston assistant fire chief, is a man of integrity. In the three short years I’ve known him, I’ve gained so much respect for Mick, who puts all his effort into every call. He is a very smart firefighter, one I trust to run into a burning building with me and have my back every single time. He and his family are part of the Creston Fire Department family and always will be.
Adam Leith, a part-time firefighter, is also someone I’ve always respected. He’s close to my age, but in those years has been on three military tours and then put his life in the hands of his two families: his wife Rhianna and son Hunter, and us at Creston Fire Department. He’s smart, trustworthy, hardworking and, most of all, lights up those around him.
I’ve only been part of Creston Fire Department for three years this coming February, but in those years, I’ve learned a lot of things I would never have had the opportunity to discover without Mick, Adam and the other amazing people at the station:
1. Your community may surprise you. I’ve lived quite a few places, but the ones I love the most are the ones I have the most in common with. The Creston community came and supported their firefighters to the point the Elks Lodge was bursting at its seams. That kind of support can never be repaid.
2. Your family doesn’t have to be blood-related. The guys at the department have been and will always be my family. We do things no one else wants to do. We protect those unable to protect themselves. We help each other.
3. Volunteering doesn’t have to be boring. I was never one for volunteering, until February 2013 when I handed in my volunteer firefighter application. That was the beginning of this long relationship of adrenaline rushes, fart jokes and protecting the lives and property of Creston.
4. It’s what we do. Once something like firefighting is in your blood, it never leaves. You’re always a firefighter at heart, and let me tell you, Mick and Adam are two firefighters with so much heart. We wake up in the dead of night for those fire tones. We leave our jobs and our families for the most devastating fires. We spend time at the station preparing ourselves for even the slightest possibility something could happen.
All of that, it’s just what we do.