Guest Column: Courage

Joe Schindler

I have been in the firefighting profession for 24 years. Currently, I am proud to serve at Station 3 in Liberty Lake with the Spokane Valley Fire Department. During my career people often comment on the courage it takes to be a firefighter. It is true that often firefighters exhibit tremendous acts of courage when performing their job.  I have come to understand courage to be as Knute Rockne  (one of the greatest football coaches of all times) says:  “Courage means being afraid to do something, but still doing it.”  The 343 firefighters who died on 9/11, or the three firefighters that died and one injured last summer on the Twisp River Fire here in Washington State displayed great bravery. Obviously, these cases exemplify courage because these firefighters laid down their lives in the line of duty to protect and serve others.

Courage is a character trait found in adults and children alike. I know a little girl who went to see a doctor one day because she had tremendous pain in her side.  Her parents were very scared when they learned this pain was caused by a cancer that was ravaging her liver. The little girl was very scared. With selfless courage she faced her fears. She did not want to come home even after her first 78 day stay in the hospital.  Why was this? She loved her home and her brothers and sisters. In the mind of this precious little six year old girl, she was afraid to come home because she did not want to spread this cancer to her family. She was afraid that like a cold, her brothers and sisters could “catch” this cancer. She was willing to bear this sickness on her own to protect the ones she loved.  That day, and throughout her five month battle with pediatric liver cancer, my daughter Anna showed me the true meaning of courage. Her continued bravery was displayed every day throughout her battle by courageously going through numerous tests, procedures and surgeries. In the end she lost her battle with cancer. The memory of her courage continues to inspire her mom, siblings and I to face our adversities in life with the same spirit she faced hers. Courage does not dictate the outcome of an event, but it does dictate the manner in which you will face it.

Courage can be used in our everyday lives as well. Every person has the opportunity to be courageous.  It helps us meet adversity in a positive way, with a ‘can do’ spirit. Isn’t it courageous after all for a child to go to a new school and meet new friends? How about standing up to a bully for yourself or a friend by telling a teacher or an adult? Other examples may be trying out for a sports team, a marching band or a school play. All these take a measure of courage. The one virtue that we can use to battle our fears is courage. We can’t change that we are afraid, but we can control how we react to that fear. We were born to be COURAGEOUS!

Bio: Joe Schindler Joined the Air Force in 1992 serving as a firefighter for four years. During that time he was deployed twice in support of Operation Desert Shield. In 1998, he joined the Spokane Valley Fire Department and is a Captain at Liberty Lake Station 3. Joe and his wife Polly founded the Anna Schindler Foundation in 2011 in honor of their daughter, Anna, who passed away from pediatric liver cancer in 2010. The mission of the foundation is to support children and their families who are battling childhood cancer here in the Inland Northwest. He will be competing for the first time in the Half-Ironman race in Coeur d’Alene in June as part of the “IRONMAN for Anna” team raising money to fight childhood cancer.

The Spokane Valley Fire Department has been a PACE Partner since 2015, promoting good character within our community.