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Most of the time things were quiet with just an occasional medical call, but today they got a brush fire that had threatened to turn into a structure fire. Thankfully they had been able to keep the flames from catching the main house, but the kids’ playhouse was a loss.
The family had gotten a good dose of smoke and the kids were scared, but nothing that required a stay in the hospital.
Shawn looked over to where a couple of the other fire fighters were tending to the family that consisted of a single mother and a horde of children. He downed the second half of his water and moved to join his comrades.
“Hey, Josh, do you need any help?” the experienced man asked.
Josh looked up at his friend with relief and pleading. “Do I? I have a group of kids who were expecting a fun sleep over, but instead end up scared to death. The parents have all been called and are on the way, but…”
“Say no more. I understand completely.” Shawn glanced over to where the other fire fighters were finishing up with the fire and beginning the cleanup. “It looks like the other guys have things in hand. What do you need?”
“Like I said, the parents are on the way, but we’re in charge until they get here.” Josh quickly surveyed the scene and saw the mother having some difficulties with one boy in particular. He was trying to hide behind the side of the porch. The hosting mother was trying ineffectively to console him. "I think the mother could use a hand with that one over there."
Shawn nodded and went to help. Since he'd responded to the fire directly in his own car, he took a moment to stow his bunker gear so as not to frighten the boy further. He then grabbed another bottle of water and headed over towards the boy’s hiding place.
Before even reaching the pair he could hear part of the problem.
“Daddy! I want my Daddy!” the little boy was almost hysterical in his cries.
The woman turned from the boy and mirrored Josh’s earlier look upon seeing Shawn. “Maybe you can help,” she pleaded. She stepped aside with the fire fighter and explained. “His dad is overseas with the Army in Iraq. We thought this would be a fun weekend to help cheer him up, but as you can see, it didn’t turn out like we’d hoped.”
Shawn seemed to ponder the information for a moment, “I’ll be right back,” he said quickly, as he dashed back to his car. After a brief search of the back seat he returned to the porch and terrified boy.
He knelt down in front of the child, “Hey, buddy, it’s been a crazy night hasn’t it?”
The little boy didn’t respond. He just tried retreat through the boards of the porch and cried, “I want my Daddy.”
Shawn sat down on the grass an arm’s length away from the boy, “That’s understandable. Daddies are amazing people.” He paused as if to add dramatic effect. “Can I let you in on a little secret?”
This seemed to get the child’s attention and for the first time he looked directly at Shawn.
Seeing progress, he leaned in as if he was telling a secret, “Some times I really want my Daddy, too.”
The boy sniffled, but remained silent.
“Daddies are great for making the scary things go away, aren’t they?” Shawn asked.
The boy nodded silently.
“I hear that your Daddy is away,” Shawn stated calmly. “He’s away chasing really big scary things away isn’t he?”
The boy just nodded silently again.
Shawn risked moving a little closer to the boy. “I bet he’d rather be here, but since he can’t, I have something just for you.” He pulled a gray sweatshirt from behind his back and unfolded it to show the ARMY on the front. “This is your very own guardian angel. Whenever you feel a little scared and need someone to watch out for you, you just put on this shirt and picture your Daddy wearing his shirt.”
He scooted closer to the boy and held the shirt out, ready to help him put it on. Shyly the boy inched away from the porch and allowed the fire fighter to place the shirt over his head. Before the shirt was even over his shoulders the little boy dove into Shawn’s arms.
Later that evening, Shawn told his wife about his latest adventure and ended with, “I don’t know who was happier, the little boy or his mother when she showed up. My only problem now is what am I going to tell Jim about his sweatshirt?”
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