Serving with our local volunteer fire department costs Hubs - and costs our family - a lot. It can also be quite rewarding. Sometimes at the same time. We were dismayed when the pager went off just before a big family dinner Christmas Eve. Minutes later Chris was saving the life of someone else's wife, mother, and grandmother, not returning until she was in the capable hands of the ER doctors and staff. Somehow after that opening Christmas presents did not seem such a big deal. He came back reeling from the tsunami wave and trough of adrenaline that comes at such times. When we fell into bed after the candlelight service that night, we were both exhausted, thinking about and praying for the other family and wondering if they'd have a greater loss before morning.
This Saturday was the annual awards banquet for the fire department. Had a hunch Hubs would be honored. Indeed he was. There's a nice plaque to hang on the wall, with his name added to one that hangs in the station. There were pictures and lots of hugs. A shoot for promotional photos is scheduled for next week. Long, loud, standing ovation. Lots of people came up to us that night to say they thought the recognition was a long time coming.
Last year's Volunteer of the Year, a good friend, read the following kind and honoring comments before presenting the award to him [edited slightly for clarity and a more general audience]:
It is my honor and pleasure to announce the 2013 Santa Clara Fire Department's Volunteer of the Year. It is something we all look forward to each year as it represents why many of us do what we do as volunteer firefighters and EMTs in our community. We work hard, and this is a very special opportunity to thank and praise someone special for their dedication and hard work in department. The award represents a wonderful appreciation and honor from your colleagues and your peers.
Our Volunteer of the Year is decided upon by the three preceding Volunteers of the Year. When we sat down to decide who it was going to be, there was no conversation or doubt as to who it was.
This volunteer has been unwavering in their dedication to our department since [he] joined us in 2007. Statistics and numbers can mean a lot; and if you look at this volunteer's numbers, they speak for themselves.* [He has] been in the top five responders every year since he joined, and rarely misses a drill. [He] will come down for calls in the middle of the night, on the weekends, middle of family dinners, and early mornings.
This year's Volunteer of the Year does something very special for our department and our community that sets him apart: he serves as our department chaplain. He stays with family members after a difficult call where a patient dies or suffers traumatic injury. He offers a shoulder to cry on for wives who have just lost their husband or comforts a parent as we take care of their sick child. He prays with people when they need a prayer. These duties often leave him on the scene of a call long after us other responders leave and go back to our homes and our families; he stays.
He also offers support and friendship to all of us here at SCFD. He has a talent for keeping an eye out for our well being and offering an ear if we need to talk about a difficult call we have been on.
I should also mention that this year's Volunteer of the Year has done all of this all while working a full-time job, being a father to his children, and a husband to his wife. This person included a special part of his wedding ceremony to "turn in" his pager to our Chief so he could spend extra time with his new bride … But I remember pretty clearly that we had a house fire the next weekend [after he was back], and lo and behold, when we came out of the fire, there he was running our rehab unit. And to top it all off, he is also is nearly done with his Master’s Degree in Clinical Chaplaincy.
Now that I think we all know who I am talking about. It is my honor to announce Chris Wade as Santa Clara Fire Department's 2013 Volunteer of the Year.
* In 2013 Chris responded to 244 9-1-1 calls.