volunteer

Firefighter and Benjamin Franklin…not usually thought of in the same sentence, but really, they should be. In 1736, Benjamin Franklin was already a young man of influence, but his ambitions didn’t stop at just a few. Most of us think of Benjamin Franklin as a scientist, inventor, founding father, prankster, and writer, but firefighter…hmmmmm, not so much. Nevertheless, Benjamin Franklin was a visionary. He saw a problem and decided to fix it.

By 1736 Franklin had adopted Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as his home, but during a visit to his hometown of Boston, Massachusetts, he witnessed a fire, and his mind went into overdrive. What he saw was that the safety precautions to keep fire from spreading seemed to be far more advanced in Boston than in Philadelphia. At that time, Philadelphia’s infrastructure was basically a maze of wooden buildings and houses squeezed together in such a way that it was almost like kindling for a bonfire. Franklin saw this decided that something needed to be done. So, he published his findings in his own Philadelphia Gazette. In doing so, he turned up a different kind of heat. Before long, he was able to round up about 30 of his friends and fellow business owners who were interested. So together, the founded the Union Fire Company. Franklin made sure that The Union Fire Company was a non-profit organization…run completely by volunteers. What made this attractive to these business owners is that it was essentially a promise, to always have each other’s backs, if a fire broke out on or close to one of their properties. Not only were they promising to help extinguish the flames and save homes, but each member was required to keep a heavy-duty bag in which to smuggle out any possessions they could salvage as well. It was a code of honor to try, in the midst of disaster, to salvage whatever they could of the lives of the occupants. The Union Fire Company quickly became the biggest fire relief company in the Colonies, or as they later became, the United States.

Never being one to just sit back and tell others what to do, Benjamin Franklin became a volunteer firefighter himself. Soon, there were six volunteer corps established in Philadelphia. This fire company was the first volunteer fire company of its kind in the United States. When people saw how well the system worked, volunteer fire companies sprung up across the city and soon all over the country. We think of Benjamin Franklin as many things, but in reality, we should maybe think of him as much more than we do. He was the brainchild behind the Great Compromise, which created the Congress we still have today. He was also the first fireman in another way. He “put out the fiery debates” and created a sense of compromise and peace among the founding fathers of our nation too, but he was an actual firefighter in that he actually fought the fires in his city.

As most of us know, dogs have been used in many kinds of work from K-9 units to military units to guide dogs, to cadaver dogs, and many more. During World War II, one such dog named Chips, who was a Shepherd-Collie-Husky mix, served for 3.5 years of the war. When the US entered World War II, the military actually asked Americans to “donate” their dogs to serve on patrols and guard duty. That seems so strange to me. How could the dog know what was going on? How could it not get depressed or aggressive, thinking its owner was dead or had abandoned it? It’s one thing to send a soldier into a war situation, they have either been legally drafted or they freely joined up, but a dog…or any animal for that matter, couldn’t possibly understand why, after having a family of their own, they were suddenly in a foreign country, without their owner, their own bed, or their home.

Nevertheless, when their country asked, over 11,000 Americans volunteered their pets, including Chips’s owner, John Wren of Pleasantville, New York. Chips the first “volunteer” dog in the United States, took part in the invasion of Sicily, just a year into his deployment. When an Italian machine gunner pinned down Chips and his squad, he broke away from his leash and charged into the enemy position. A single shot rang out. Then, the Italian gunner emerged with Chips at his throat, followed by three more soldiers. They all quickly surrendered. Chips received a wound on his scalp and burns on his mouth and left eye. That didn’t stop this hero dog, who kept fighting and helped capture 10 more soldiers that day.

After the war, per their request, it was time for Chips to be returned to his family. Plans would have to be put in place for that to happen. So, in the fall of 1945 he was taken back to Front Royal where he was retrained so that he could go back to his family. A dog who had been in combat couldn’t just go back to his family as if nothing had happened. Finally in December of 1945, he traveled home to Pleasantville, riding in the baggage car of a train. He didn’t go alone. He was accompanied by six reporters and photographers who wanted to cover the story. They were met by Mr and Mrs Wren and their son, Johnny, who was only a baby when Chips left. The girls raced home after school to see their dog. It was a sweet homecoming. Chips lived for just four months before his kidneys failed. I guess war had taken its toll.

Chips’s story made him an international sensation. He received a Silver Star for his heroics. Unfortunately, some people thought that a dog shouldn’t be awarded the same medal as a human, so it was revoked. Then, in 2018, he was awarded the PDSA Dickin Award, the highest honor for wartime bravery for an animal. A well-deserved honor. While his award was amazing, I think that the family should have also received an award, as should all of the other families who donated their dogs for the war effort. It was a very selfless act.

Laughing It UpWhen I think of my niece, Jessi, I think of someone who loves to laugh. She teases those around her in a good natured way, and gets everyone laughing. She brings joy and happiness right into the room with her when she walks in. It doesn’t matter who is in the room, she finds some way to joke around with them or tease them in some way. I guess that simply makes her part of this family, because with us, teasing is a way of life. I’m quite sure that joy and laughter was a big part of what her husband, Jason first noticed in her. A pretty girl with a bright smile on her face, and joy in her heart…yep, I’ll bet that it made her very hard to resist.

Jessi in Grandpa's BootsJoy and laughter aren’t the only things of interest to Jessi. She is a great fashionista too…always has been. She enjoys dressing up and being casual too. Jessi has always had her own kind of style. In fact, when she was a little girl, she knew exactly what style she liked. She has always liked boots. She knows how to make them look great and one particular day, she decided that her grandpa’s boots were in perfect style…I think she was right…don’t you?

All kidding aside, Jessi is a wonderful person, who gives of her time and talents whenever there is a need. She is the assistant youth pastor at our church, she helps her grandmothers whenever they need it. She is quick to volunteer in so many Jessiareas. She began working in a law office at the age of 17, and has been doing that work ever since, and she is exceptional at it. She is an advocate for the Casper area, and the local library. She pushes for people to buy local, and support our local community. She works tirelessly to drum up support for causes that benefit our local economy and lifestyle. That can be a thankless job, but she does it well, and our community has benefitted much from her efforts. Yes, she was a goofy little kid, and was always kidding around, which is always fun, but I am very proud of the woman she has become. Today is Jessi’s birthday. Happy birthday Jessi!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Aunt BonnieOften, when we ask about the events of someone’s life, it is amazing the seemingly little things about them, that were really big things, and yet, we did not know about them. My Aunt Bonnie is like that. There are a lot of things I knew about her, like her talent for cake decorating. She made my 25th anniversary cake, my girls wedding cakes, and so many cakes for other people. So many wedding receptions were made beautiful because of those cakes. They have endeared Aunt Bonnie to all of us for many years.

But it was not the cakes that I found out about recently, but something else…and I suppose it shouldn’t have surprised me, because of the way she was with the cakes…giving them as a wedding gift to the couple. It was that years ago, when Aunt Bonnie was 13 or 14 years old, she did some volunteer work. My mom wasn’t sure exactly what the work was, because she was married and living in Wisconsin, but she thought it had to do with making phone calls and service men. I’m sure that my story will bring to light the whole story, but Mom told me that it was important work, and Aunt Bonnie was very proud of the work she did. I never knew that she had anything to do with volunteering for the USO or the Army.

As I said, my story brought out the real story, and Aunt Sandy called me to fill in the missing details. I want to thank her for her assistance in getting to the whole story. Aunt Bonnie worked in the Airforce Filter Center. Her job was to keep track of where each company of men were to pass on to their relatives. I agree that her work was very important…especially to the families of the soldiers who were deployed. I am  very Our 25th Anniversary cakeproud of my aunt’s service to our country, and to our soldiers.

Another thing I didn’t know, is that Aunt Bonnie did some acting in plays as a young lady. She was a part of a local theater group. Acting…a far cry from what I would have thought. It isn’t that I can’t see Aunt Bonnie acting, because she has so many talents, that it makes sense that acting was one of them. I would love to have seen some of the plays she was in. Who knew?? Maybe I can’t say I knew herthen, but I can say…I know her now!!

Today is Aunt Bonnie’s birthday. She is a very special lady, and bring much joy and beauty into the lives of all who know her. Happy birthday Aunt Bonnie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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