Firefighters aren’t millionaires. They aren’t household names. They don’t sign shoe contracts or get feted by the nation when they retire.
All they do is risk their lives to keep us safe. They save our lives on occasion. And, in Washougal, Washington, two of them saved an American flag during a two-alarm blaze last week.
Certainly puts anthem-kneelers to shame, doesn’t it?
According to KPTV-TV, Capt. Matt Hazlett and firefighter John Prasch, members of East County Fire & Rescue, managed to save Old Glory during an Oct. 20 blaze that damaged several businesses in the area.
They became unlikely viral heroes after the moment was caught on video.
The Camas-Washougal Fire Department in Clark County said the fire was started when some sheets spontaneously combusted at a local laundromat.
Damage from the fire ran to $150,000 — certainly not a trivial amount. However, what really caught the public’s attention was what Hazlett and Prasch did when they saw the flag flying.
“It was just sort of an a-ha moment,” Prasch told KPTV.
“You know, as we saw the smoke and the fire advancing and noticed the flag pole with the flag still up.”
The moment was caught on video by a local resident who captured the two firefighters folding up the flag after it had been taken down.
When it went viral, however, the firefighters didn’t think they had done anything particularly valiant.
“You know just for he and I, it was a job that I believe most firefighters would do. It’s not heroic, it was symbolic,” Hazlett told the station.
“And you know, at the end of the day, if it had gone unnoticed, nothing would’ve changed,” he added.
“It would have been done exactly the same way and we would’ve gone home and thought nothing of it.”
“Being public servants, there is an aspect of civic duty, civic pride, so part of that, of course, is how we treat the flag,” he told KPTV.
On Tuesday, Old Glory was back outside the businesses, flying just as it was before the blaze. The firefighters’ reward?
“It was kind of nice to see that the flag was untouched and continuing to fly,” Prasch said.
It’s worth noting, at moments like this, that there are plenty of people willing to give of themselves and risk everything, all in total anonymity, for what the American flag represents.
They do it in military theaters overseas, where men and women — powered only by their will and love of country — will fight and die for what that flag represents.
They do it at home, where first responders like Hazlett and Prisch will run into burning buildings or put themselves in the line of fire for people they’ve never even met.
No, they don’t have the preternatural talents that athletes possess.
They may jump high, but not high enough to earn a spot at the NFL combine.
They may run fast, but not fast enough to raise a scout’s eyebrows.
If they play pick-up basketball, nobody is going to care what their 3-point percentage is.
Yet, like so many others across the fruited plain, they root for the same athletes who feel protesting the flag or the national anthem while they’re on the job is the best way to get their point across.
When critics take exception, the athletes and their defenders invariably say their detractors don’t really Get It.
With all due respect, one might say that they’ve got it the wrong way around.
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