A quote frequently used by my father is one that describes the culture of a place where he spent most of his 25 year military career. Serving as an F-16 pilot, and later as Adjutant General, he would often say, “The Vermont Guard is a family tradition.”
With three generations of my family serving in the Vermont Guard, the description has a literal meaning to it. But growing up around the base and spending countless hours with my dad’s colleagues and their families, the quote also has a figurative meaning as well.
The Guard became a second family, and as I grew older, I found myself drawn towards activities that could offer a similar sense of camaraderie. I engrossed my time in joining team sports, Greek life, class council, and other volunteer-based services. Each organization was unique and meaningful in their own way, and each one instilled a sense of teamwork, service, and leadership.
Even through my volunteer work, something still felt like it was missing. I wanted to belong to a team that serves their community in a more powerful capacity. Rather than participating in the occasional, few-hour-long volunteer gig, or donning a sports uniform before taking the field, or wearing matching sorority pins with 75 other women, I knew that I could do more. I wanted an experience where I could work closely with colleagues during intense situations, even life-and-death situations. In this way, I knew I could truly make an impact on someone’s life, while also building strong, lasting bonds with a community of individuals with similar motivations as my own.
I ran into a college classmate in 2012 who informed me that she had joined a local rescue squad. She expressed both her enjoyment and her fulfillment from the experience. She felt close with the people she ran rescue with, and she enjoyed the intensity and the challenges that come with running on a rescue squad. She suggested I come by the station one day to check it out, just in case it was something I would be interested in joining.
I initially didn’t think much of it; I was both working and in graduate school full-time and thought it would be too much to take on. But as time progressed, I thought more about the positive experience she had described to me, and the prospect of becoming involved in emergency medical services became increasingly more appealing. After trading some emails and a tour of the station, I decided to apply to the rescue squad my friend was on. I was accepted and quickly enrolled in an emergency medical technician (EMT) course at UVM. I was hooked.
Eight years later, I continue to find myself heavily involved in emergency medical services, not only through my job at the Vermont Department of Health, but also through my volunteer positions with Essex Rescue and Georgia First Response.
I’m often asked by friends and family, “Why do you do rescue?” Their questioning is genuine, even asked with perplexity. They sincerely wonder what motivates someone to be away from their family at all hours of the day and night, waiting for emergency calls on a 12 or 24-hour shift. Recently, the question of “why” comes up more frequently. As a new mother of an infant with special health needs, I occasionally find myself asking the same question. Sleep deprivation, losing family time, and stress can all play into this important question of “why?” After working a 40+ hour week at the Vermont Department of Health, and sometimes missing out on family gatherings or events, why do I continue to respond to 911 calls in the middle of the night, helping and providing aid to strangers I have never met?
My response is always the same: service. This is how I always envisioned my path in service to others. This is how I have found my niche. I spent most of my childhood living in and attending schools in Essex Junction. It is then only fitting that I find myself volunteering in the town that I grew up in. As many Essex residents know, the Essex Rescue station is directly next to the high school. Each time I turn onto Educational Drive, I am reminded of Friday night football games, school dances, and lacrosse practice.
As someone with diverse volunteer experiences, being in emergency medical services is the most unique and rewarding one of all. What makes it more special is that I can do EMS in my hometown. Emergency medical services gives me the opportunity to use a different skill set -- to work with my hands and apply my training to think quickly and critically to manage emergency situations. As I shared before, the challenges and intensity of this line of work play a large role in my motivation to serve, but, the most vital piece that drives me is the camaraderie that I find among my crew. The complexity and intimacy of emergency calls sometimes cannot be expressed in words; they are simply shared experiences that bring crews closer together.
While I was unable to join the military due to asthma, I ultimately found what I had been searching for all along in the first responder community. I encourage anyone interested in a unique volunteer experience that makes an impactful difference in the community to explore joining Essex Rescue. We are a dedicated group of individuals -- your family, neighbors, friends, and coworkers -- who all share the same desire to serve others.