Friday, August 11, 2017


The hardest assignments begin with the simplest act. Adding the black band to my badge somehow makes it more real. It signifies the need, the calling to bring another fallen firefighter home for the last time. I think about July 23, 2009, often. Tom Marovich died on July 21st, but I met his parents on July 23. That day is etched in my brain. If you’ve met a mother or a father or a sister or brother, you know what I mean. That day in 2009 nearly broke me. In the years since, I've been on a quest to be strong enough to bend when faced with the stormto become more resilient.

Firefighter Bill Jaros, Six Rivers National Forest Engine 312, died while on a physical training hike with his crew. I didn't know Bill, but many of his friends are my friends. The fire community is a small world. It's humbling to be asked to help plan and execute this kind of duty and to repay a debt. Bill and the rest of the Six Rivers National Forest were there in 2009 to help bring Tom home. Some assignments you just don’t say no to.

After Bill's memorial, I went for a walk on the beach. As I often do I popped Jocko Willink's podcast into my ear. I've learned a ton from Jocko and he's helped me become a much more resilient person. Attached is what I heard as I went for a walk that day.

 (Clipped at 2:43:25 – dealing with the loss of loved ones...)

Today, thinking about Ian and Brent and Brian and Shawn and Dale and Dave and Luke and Brent and Mike and Todd and Justin I want to share Jocko’s words with all of you. I wish I had heard them back in 2009. I hope it helps you today. Here’s to absent friends…now get out there and LIVE!

Ben Iverson is currently a Training Specialist for NWCG Training Development at NIFC. All expressions are those of the author.

A special note of appreciation goes out to Jocko Willink for his continued influence throughout the wildland fire service.

Click here for a link to the podcast in its entirety.

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