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Stand Down

July 7, 2015, Beamsville, Ont. - Sorry I haven’t written here for a while; I have been up to my neck in alligators. First, I was on a deadline revising one of my books; second, I have been working on several new projects; and third, my nephew was in a terrible motorcycle accident so I was out of the country for a bit.

I thought I was cool with traumatic events, after all I do counsel others, however, when my nephew was in his accident I was not so cool. He and two others were riding on a two-lane road when a car crossed the solid yellow line and took out all three bikes – two Harleys and a Triumph Rocket III.

The collision resulted in road rash and concussions for the other two riders, and my nephew suffered a broken arm and injuries to the left leg that required a traumatic amputation.

After a nine-hour drive from Ontario, we arrived to find him in ICU with all the usual hook ups: tubes, wires, O2 and so on. He was in pretty rough shape for a few days. After a week he was transferred to a rehab facility and was doing remarkably well.

During this time, I found myself having difficulty backing off and letting others take the lead. I am the oldest brother, the patriarch of the family, a trained counselor, a chaplain and a retired firefighter. I am supposed to be the one to handle things. Yes, he was my nephew, but in the hierarchy of this situation I found myself behind his wife and parents; and rightly so. My role was to give moral support through an uncle’s love to my nephew and his family and a brother’s love to my sister and her husband.

I realized from this situation that there are times when we all need to stand down and let others take the lead. We may like to think that we can leap tall buildings in a single bound but when the rubber hits the road we are still human like everyone else. We don’t have to try to do everything; we can let our human side show. I found myself visiting the local veterans centre for a coffee and a hug from someone who understood.

As first responders we have a lot of love to give; sometimes it’s just buried deep under our bunker gear and/or our persona. Sometimes the best way to give our love is to just be present. Don’t be afraid to give love and understanding; it is a gift humans share far too seldom.

Bruce Lacillade is retired from the Burlington Fire Department in Ontario, where he spent 10 years on the floor as a firefighter and the next 15 years as an inspector in fire prevention. He’s also a U.S. Navy veteran and the chaplain for the American Legion in Ontario and the United Council of Veterans (Hamilton and area). Bruce helps first responders, military personnel, veterans, and their families deal with what he calls moral injuries, or internal conflicts. Contact Bruce at

July 7, 2015  By Bruce Lacillade

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