This is the third in a series of posts from MN8 Foxfire's recent trip to Israel.
You can find the first two installments here:
MN8 Foxfire Visits Israeli Fire Department (Part 1)
MN8 Foxfire Visits Israel David VS. Goliath (Part 2)
After a short night of sleep, trying to get adjusted to the 7 hour time change, I had the opportunity to continue my journey exploring this sacred country. I woke up at zero dark thirty and drove south towards Egypt. I then headed east to the Negev desert to another location in which a great siege occurred thousands of years ago. The place is called Masada and at this mountaintop encampment an epic event occurred. I took the less traveled rear entrance to Masada through the desert canyon. As the black sky gave way to daybreak, I was in awe of the terrain and beauty. I finally passed an Israeli Defense Force outpost and parked my car. 2,000+ years ago the Romans had sacked Jerusalem and conquered most of Israel.
As they completed their conquest of ancient Israel, they heard of several hundred Jewish zealots that had fled to the mountain top outpost of Masada. King Herod had Masada built as a self sufficient fortress. It sat on the top of a mountain and was outfitted with cisterns and enough land to grow crops. It had 360 degree visibility and there was only one way to gain entry; it was the ultimate fortress. The residents of Masada were not going to surrender to the Romans without a fight. During the multi-year siege they would pelt the 15,000+ Roman in camps below with boulders, arrows, and rocks. You can still see the remnants of the Roman's camp today (see the small squares in the picture below).
The Romans finally realized that the last group of biblical Jews were not going to give up and that this was going to be a fight to the death. They laid siege to Masada for over 18 months. During this time the Romans painstakingly built an earthen ramp and eventually breached the fortress gate.
Once the ramp was completed and the Romans fought their way to the top, they finally breached the fortress (via the entrance pictured below). They were shocked to find that all 800+ people had taken their own lives so they would not have to be conquered and sold into slavery. The Masada occupants knew that once the Romans took Masada they would be ruthlessly killed and their wives and children would be placed into slavery. They knew that this alternative would be far worse then death, they wanted to end their lives on their terms.
Masada is now a UNESCO global historic site. It is easily accessed by a air conditioned cable car. I decided that instead of taking the cable car, I would retrace the steps of the Romans and walk up the earthen ramp that is still there to this day. Many years ago, my best friend since childhood, Oliver and I talked about one day visiting Masada. Oliver joined the Army, I joined the US Marine Corps and as little kids we always talked about serving our country and carrying on the long tradition protecting our homeland and helping others. Even though I left the US Marine Corps, fifty pounds ago, Oliver stayed in the US Army is is now getting ready to become a Major. Oliver couldn't join me on this trip because he was serving his second tour in Afghanistan. Oliver and I have always dreamed of together paying tribute to the sacred spot where these brave warriors and citizens stood up to the Roman legions. This place is revered by warriors around the world and it is a common place were young Israeli soldiers take their oath of enlistment. It is a place that people will always remember the bravery of a few that stood up to thousands of invaders.
I stepped out of my car and started the journey up the earthen ramp. Even though Oliver could not be with me on this journey, I felt his presence with each and every step. As I reached the top of this difficult path, I reflected on how lucky I am to continue my service to others as a firefighter. I thought of how as a firefighter we will never accept defeat. I thought of all the brave Marines and firefighters I have had the privilege of serving with and how they also would be privileged to make this same pilgrimage. I finally made it to the top of the ramp and walked through the original arched gate where the Romans made initial entry to Masada.
As I looked to the east, I could see the Dead Sea and the mountains in nearby Jordan. I walked to the original lookout tower just as the majestic sun broke the horizon. I was overcome with emotions and pride as I witnessed one on the most incredible sunrises I have ever experienced. My thoughts brought me to the bravery and tenacity of the ancient Israelites. I thought of what must have gone through their minds as they knew the Romans were getting closer and closer. I thought of what would make someone do something that would be more important than life itself.
Sitting on this sacred place and watching the same sunset that they watched two millennia ago, I remembered a line of the recent movie “Act of Valor” about the US Navy SEALs, as I looked at the beautiful colors unfolding from the sunrise on this sacred vista. I thought of what would make someone become a firefighter, what would make someone want to be in the military. Why would someone put a cause above their own life? I think this thought was simply explained by a short line in that movie; “If your not willing to give up everything, you’ve already lost” As firefighters, we are willing to give up everything to accomplish our mission of saving others. These early Israelites were also willing to give up everything to defend their land and faith.
Finishing my exploration of this sacred ground, I thought of how privileged I have been to have served in the US Marine Corps and how fortunate I am to be a firefighter. What an incredible journey it has been starting Foxfire and taking the message of how our advanced photoluminescent technology can help firefighters all over the world reduce disorientation and increase accountability.
I thought of the closing lines of Act of Valor in which the Navy Chief recited the poem from the great Native American warrior Tecumseh.
“Live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion, respect others and their views and demand they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life, seek to make your life long and of and of service. When your time comes to die, be not like those who’s hearts a filled with the fear of death so when their time comes they weep and pray that they may have a little more time left to live their life in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”
These souls on Masada died like heroes and I was honored to respect the place were these brave few stood up to so many.
After a great visit with my new friends and brothers of the Israeli Fire Department (Beit Shemesh station) see post here, I decided to make my journey to the Valley of Ellah. They pointed me in the right direction and I continued on my travels to find the sacred site of this inspirational story of the bible. I pulled off the side of the road where they told me and started to walk through the dry arid landscape. A few minutes later, I saw a firefighting brush truck pull up behind me and it was the captain from the station I just visited. He rolls down the window and told me I was on the wrong side of the road.
I was very touched that he made a special trip to find me and make sure I found my way. This was another great example of the brotherhood of firefighting, always looking out for your own.
The valley I was standing in is known as the Shephelah. The Shephelah is a series of vallies that run from the Mediterranean sea inland to Jerusaleam. The Shephelah was used millinea ago as a type of freeway the armies and tribes would take as they traveled from Europe and Asia through the land bridge known as Israel on their journies to Africa and the Middle East. It was in this exact location thousands of years ago that the mighty Philistine army encountered the army of King Sol, one of the original tribes of Israel. As I stood in the Valley of Ellah and looked at the mountain ranges on either side of me, I could perfectly see how these two armies faced each other.
In this specific battle, 3,000+ years ago, neither army wanted to come down the mountain and start the fight. This is because it would expose them as they traveled down the mountain side and back up the opposing force’s mountain to attack. Instead, for several weeks, they just faced off and traded insults and threats. In those times, it was customary to engage in single combat. Single combat was a type of warfare in which each of the opposing forces would elect a warrior to represent the respective force and they would battle to the death. The winning army of the single combat would be victorious over the entire battle. In this case, single combat was initiated and the Philistines elected a mighty warrior who stood over 9 feet tall. This giant walked down the valley to almost the exact location where I was standing.
He called to the Israelites for a warrior to challenge him but none answered. They were all to scared to take on this giant in what would have been almost certain death and destruction. For several days the giant hurled insults to the Israelites and for several days none of them would take the challenge. Finally, a young shepherd boy who was bringing his older brothers food and gifts from their father finally had enough of this giant insulting his people. He announced to his fellow Israelites that he would take up the challenge and fight this giant Philistine. As you could imagine, his brothers and others in the camp at first thought he was joking but he was not.
As I replayed this story in my head, standing at this exact location, I thought about all the people who thought I too was crazy for leaving a great corporate job to start my own company that would be competing against the giants of industry and corporate America.
This young shepherd boy started to walk down the mountain to face this giant and the other Israelite warriors offered to give him armor and weapons. He replied that he did not want those things to weigh him down, he had a plan. I remembered people telling me I needed to have more money before I started Foxfire. I was told I needed to invest in more inventory, more professional advertising and promotions, and more staff. I knew that if MN8 Foxfire was going to be successful, we had to focus on what we did best as a firefighter entrepreneur and not what would make a major corporation successful. I too had a plan.
As this young shepherd boy, named David, faced off against the mighty giant named Goliath, the giant yelled at David to come to him.
David stood his ground. He would not allow this giant to tell him what to do, again, he had a plan. The plan was his plan, not Goliaths. I too had a plan, a plan that would be based on helping my brother firefighters reduce disorientation and increase accountability with our illuminating products. I was not going to let other major corporations tell me how I should go to market. 3,000+ years ago David kneeled down at this the exact spot where I now stood and picked up five stones. I too kneeled down and with chills filling my body, I also picked up five stones. David placed one of the stones in his leather sling and started to swing the sling around and around. As he took aim at the giant one of those stones flew from his sling striking down the mighty giant Goliath.
I thought of this historic event and how it has inspired me and many other underdogs over time. Sometimes what we perceive as weakness is actually strength and sometimes what we perceive as strength is actually weakness. We all ass-u-me that because you are big, you are better. This is not always true. Big companies typically don't understand the “why” we do what we do. They are slow to change and sometimes can get caught up in bureaucracy and politics.
At MN8 Foxfire, we are by firefighters for firefighters, EVERYTHING we do is predicated on the fact that it has to help our brother and sister firefighters. We don’t just focus on innovative products, we also try and give the firefighters an opportunity to enrich their lives by empowering them to help other firefighters by being part of our direct sales team known as Boots on the Street (BOTS).
Just like David inspired his people to stand up to others regardless of their size, it is our hope that we too can help other firefighters realize their dreams to help other firefighters. At the end of the day we are all in this together. We are a family (as dysfunctional as it may be at times) and no matter if we are in a small volley department in a rural area, a major city department in a large metro area, or in a small wildland outpost in central Israel we are all in this together and we will always have each others back.
All my life, I have dreamed about visiting Israel. I could think of no opportunity better than being able to help our brother firefighters as my primary reason to make this first visit to this sacred land. After a 12+hour flight I arrived in the Tel Aviv, Israel. My seat mate, Gideon, was born in Arizona but his family now lives Israel. Since he is a dual Israeli-American citizen he, like all other Israeli citizens, served in the Israeli military. This was his first trip back to the Holy Land after proudly serving a tour with the Israeli Special Forces. On the long flight we talked about Foxfire and how our illuminating technology helps firefighters throughout the world reduce disorientation and increase accountability with our advanced photoluminescent technology. He was very interested to hear about this technology and was very excited when I gave him one of our illuminating challenge coins. Little did I know that this was the start of a great freindship. His family even invited me over to their house later that week.
After picking up my luggage, I decided I would do some exploring before I checked into my hotel. I took Freeway 1, which is Israel’s main freeway that travel West to east from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. I took the exit for Beit Shemesh and started to head south to a location I have always wanted to visit. This area was the location of one of my favorite stories of the bible (more to follow in my next post). I was looking for an area called the Valley of Ellah. This area is not well marked and I knew based on what I heard, it may be difficult to find. Driving aimlessly through a foreign country I discovered a familiar sight; a fire station.
I pulled up to the gate and and told the firefighter that I was a fellow firefighter from the United States. As he looked at me funny with a confusing expression on his face, I finally realized that he did not speak English and had no idea what I was saying. After I few more minutes of me doing my best example of “charade”, his face lit up and he finally understood what I was saying. He opened the gate and announced to the rest of the crew in Hebrew that they had a firefighting brother from the USA. What happened next will stick with me for many years. They invited me to sit down on the couch, they turned off the TV and they offered me a cup of coffee. Their hospitality made me feel just as home here as I have felt in any fire station in the USA.
As we did our best to understand each other, I realized that other than the taste of the coffee and the language spoken this was no different that visiting any fire station in the US. They were my brothers. They were making fun of each other, they talked about how their station was better then the other one a town over, they showed my the trucks and they talked about some of their recent runs. I was quite interested to see their attack lines were under 1/2” wide and they used 2 ½ lines for supply.
I explained that we used 2 ½ inch lines for attack and they thought I was joking. I finally had them pull off the line and had them charge it up. I showed them the technique in which you can place a loop on top of itself. They were quite excited to hear about this easy solution but the senior guy finally pulled me aside and explained that water is very limited and they would never use that much water. It was a great example of firefighting brothers a world away sharing stories and experiences of the different ways we solve the same problems.
As we bid our farewells, they offered me something even more interesting than a patch. They presented me with a department issued Israeli Fire Department belt buckle. They did however warn me that you need to be careful when you drop your pants so a certain something does not get caught in the poorly placed crossed pick-head axes. It's good to see firefighter humor knows no boundries...
At the end of my visit to this incredible country, I received another call from Gideon inviting me over for Friday night dinner. His mother cooked one of the best meals I have ever tasted and it was so nice to spend some time with this welcoming family. They know how tough it is to spend time away from home and they were gracious hosts to a fellow US expatriate. I spent quite a bit of time with Gideon and his father that evening learning more about what it is like to live in Israel and be so close to so many people that want to do you harm. Gideon's dad (an accomplished Ironman triathlete) is an avid historian and spends quite a bit of his time doing tours of Israel. He was a wealth of knowledge as he tied the stories of the bible to the actual places I had visited on this trip. Additionaly, Gideon and his dad have started their own tactical training company and it was great to hear about their future growth plans. Learn more about Negev Tactical by visiting their Facebook account.
Some of you may remember the fundraiser we did for a young man named Ian Swarr a few months ago. We had two giants of the fire service lead a very robust training; recently promoted District Chief Pat Nichols of Boston Fire Department and Lt. Mark Gregory of FDNY both founders of P.L. Vulcan Training Concepts As being true firefighting brothers, Mark and Pat both offered us the opportunity to visit their respective stations should we ever be in the Boston or New York City area.
This week we were scheduled to attend the New England Fire Expo in Springfield, Massachusetts and after a quick look at the map, I realized I was just a few hours away from Boston. Pat was actually on a family vacation out of town as they welcomed his son back from a safe and successful combat tour in Afghanistan with the Army. He graciously set me up with one of his former roughnecks from Tower-Ladder 10 and now lieutenant of the engine.
Prior to my visit the previous day, I had the opportunity to see the Red Sox play at historic Fenway Park. The only thing better than visiting this baseball palace was getting in half price and siting wherever I wanted beacause it was a rain delayed game. I also got a few good pictures of my namesake the Green Monster.
On the way out I passed by the historic Ladder 15 - Engine 33. My heart almost skipped a beat when I saw that Foxfire was already in service on their aerial ladder!
Pat graciously set up a visit with Lt. Ryan McGovern of Engine 28. Lt. McGovern was not only a gracious host, he was also one of the most friendly and professional leaders I have had the privilege of meeting in the fire service. I had the chance over the next 24 hours to not only spend time with the great men and woman of Engine 28 but also Captain Garry of TL10 and his truckies.
One of the great things about the Boston Fire Department (and there are too many to count) is the very high percentage of veterans they have on the department. Lt. McGovern was not only one of those veterans but he also served with distinction in the US Army Special Forces.
I have a very special connection to the Special Forces and you will always see me wearing a black Killed In Action bracelet in honor of my friend Maj Guy “Bear” Barattieri. Maj. Barattieri lost his life in October of 2006 in Iraq. Although Lt. McGovern and Maj. Barattieri did not know each other, I felt very honored to ride a fire engine commanded by one of his Special Forces brothers.
The morning started out as most morning start in fire stations around the country, sitting around a kitchen table with a cup of coffee telling stories. It was not too long after sitting down that we had our first call of the day, a downed motorcycle. We arrived on the scene to find not one but two people injured when their motorcycle came to an abrupt stop on the bumper of a pick-up truck. The man had a open compound fracture of the leg and his female passenger was also injured. TL10 and Lt. McGovern and his Engine crew immediately sprung in to action administering first aid and stabilizing the patients. Lt. McGovern’s leadership was very apparent as he not only gently reassured the patient that she would be okay but he also calmly directed his crew on next steps. Just as we were leaving, we were dispatched to an elderly lady that was having trouble breathing. We were met by this terminally ill elderly woman’s agitated husband in the hallway. You could tell both his fear and frustration seeing his wife of many years so sick. Once again Lt. McGovern not only eased the man’s concerns, he also directed his team to make the patient as comfortable as possible until the medic arrived. As the patient's husband kept getting more and more frustrated, Lt. McGovern kept getting more and more friendly and reassuring. This is the type of leadership and compassion that all of us in the fire service could learn from. Grace under pressure and calm under fire, you could tell this man was a true leader. We finally returned back to quarters after a few more fire runs for a great carry out lunch from one of the outstanding restaurants in their up and coming area of Jamaica Plains.
I had the chance to bring some MN8 Foxfire "goodies" to the crew and several of the guys immediately put their helmet bands on their helmets. After a few visits to the dark bathroom, showing how our products worked in the dark, the Captain had me put grip wrap on the tool mounted on the bumber of TL10 and bars on the outside of the tower bucket. It filled me with such pride knowing that these brothers would be able to now have Foxfire help them reduce disorientation and increase accountabilty with our advanced photoluminescent technolgy.
As many of you know, I spend quite a lot of time on the road eating dinner by myself and staying in lonely hotel rooms. It is always so great to be able to break bread with my firefighting brothers across the country. Having someone to talk to before I "hit the rack" and telling jokes over dinner at the fire-hall reminds me how lucky I am to be part of the firefighting family. We all settled in for a fantastic meal prepared by the station's best cook. After a very filling dinner, we all watched the Stanley Cup finals as we cheered on the hometown Bruins. It was a very exciting overtime Stanley Cup game surrounded by some of the most professional and friendly firefighters I have ever had the chance to meet. We turned in for a quiet night in-house with no runs and woke the next morning refreshed and ready to go. We bid our farewells and I slid down the pole one last time. As I watched the station fade in the rearview mirror, I thought about how lucky I was to have met these great men and how furtunate Boston is to have their protection. Even though I’m not from Boston, I know what truly makes Boston strong.
When the MN8-Foxfire crew heads to FDIC every year the highlight of the show is always making and rekindling connections with fellow firefighters. This year was extra special for us, as we got to see Robert Weidmann of FDNY’s Rescue Company 2 back up on his feet after a tragic accident.
In December 2011, Rob and fellow firefighter James Gersbeck were searching the top floor of an apartment building for reported trapped occupants. The entire floor flashed and trapped both brothers inside, engulfed in flames. Both men managed to escape the blaze, but suffered serious injuries. Rob was burned over 60% if his body, and spent over 3 months in the New York Presbyterian Burn Unit where he underwent more than 14 surgeries and skin grafts.
MN8-Foxfire President Zach Green had the privilege of meeting Rob, James and other members of Rescue Company 2 on a trip to NYC with Capt. Willie Wines Jr. of IronFiremen and Wooden Ladders and Rhett Fleitz of The Fire Critic in 2010. They originally traveled to the New York area to inform brothers about Foxfire’s advanced photoluminescent technology. The station graciously welcomed them and Foxfire’s mission and left a special impact on the group.
At Foxfire, our most important goal is to help our firefighting brothers all over the world, simply because we are all brothers. When one brother falls, we all stumble, so when news of the incident spread the trio felt called to put together the FDNY Rescue 2 Mayday Fund to benefit Rob and James. After the close of the fundraiser, Zach, Willie and Rhett made a return trip to NYC to present a check to the station.
Rescue Company 2 like many other departments never leave a brother alone. Capt. Flaherty even let Zach visit the ward were Rob was recovering at the burn center later the next day. Witnessing this overwhelming sense of brotherhood left a life-long impact on all of us as a Rescue 2 member of the station stayed with Rob, who was still in the burn unit, 24/7 so he would never be alone.
One of the most joyous moments of the trade show was seeing Rob coming to the MN8-Foxfire booth at FDIC. Although his road to recovery is not yet over, it was amazing to see Rob on his feet, laughing, talking, and seeming like any other firefighter attending the trade show. He has made a remarkable recovery since the last time we saw him in the New York burn unit.
The Foxfire crew also had the privilege of enjoying dinner with Rob one night, and his positive attitude and amazing recovery touched the whole team. Rob has teamed up with Sons of the Flag Burn Foundation, a non-profit organization which provides support to military service members, first responders and civilians who have survived burn injuries. He and his brothers at Sons of the Flag are living the highest principles of the fire service and military. When one of us hurts, we all hurt, when one of us falls we all carry each other. I think Shakespeare said it best in his play King Henry V "From now until the end of the world, we and it shall be remembered. We few, we Band of Brothers. For he who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother."
MN8 Foxfire had the privilege of returning to the Harrisburg Fire Expo May 16-19 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Unlike many other shows we do, like FDIC and the Baltimore Fire Expo, the Harrisburg show focuses entirely on fire equipment sales. Also unlike any other show, this show is housed at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center and the aroma of livestock kept us company over the weekend! After hearing back from so many of our fans who missed us last year, we decided to come back for our second show at Harrisburg. Since we attended with one of our vendors in 2011, we knew it would be a great show, but we didn’t know just how incredible it was going to be.
Zach arrived in Harrisburg on Thursday around 11pm after an 11,000-mile, 10-day trip up down and around the US and Canada, so he was pleasantly surprised to find Kelly, Tom, and Captain Wines (Iron Fireman) with the booth already set up for the following morning. With prime real estate in the corner of one showroom, Foxfire was ready and raring to go for a great weekend!
We knew it was going to be a good show Friday morning when we saw the line of people waiting for our booth before the gates had even opened. We were honored to see so many people who had heard of Foxfire and were eager to see it with their own eyes. To see their faces coming out of the dark room, where we demonstrate how our advanced photoluminescent technology helps reduce disorientation and increase accountability, is always motivating. It never ceases to amaze us how quickly people go from skeptics to believers after seeing the benefits of our technology in the blacked out trailer or tent.
Over the course of the weekend we were happy to host several special guests, including our celebrity spokesman Captain Wines of Ironfiremen blog fame, and Andrew Arnold of Box Alarm Leather, our partner on the new illuminating, reflective lifetime guaranteed leather radio straps and accessories. He was joined by his awesome wife, Mary, who helped custom fit and demonstrate these great new products. We were also joined by several members of our independent firefighter sales team, Boots On The Street (B.O.T.S.), Jesse Spruell, Chavez Wilson, Bruce Kaufman, Bryan Sypniewski. For us at Foxfire, we were privileged to bring in our B.O.T.S. who typically work apart from our Cincinnati headquarters. Our B.O.T.S. are found all around the country, making individual sales to firehouses and allowing us to cover more ground and reach more firefighters with our safety products. B.O.T.S. are such a crucial part of building the Foxfire community, so it was exciting to work with them in person and see them do such a great job. If you would like more information on how to join the B.O.T.S. team click here.
Capt. Wines even brought a very special guest with him on this trip, his lovely wife Donna. Many of you know Captain Wines, award winning blogger of Wooden Ladders Iron Firemen, and this was the first show his wife has been able to attend. With such a huge following, Captain Wines makes an impact on firefighters all over the country, talking about the brotherhood firemen share, the rich history, and longstanding traditions. It was great to be able to have his wife see what a meaningful contribution he makes to the brotherhood. He was so excited to have her travel with him that he ended up buying her not one but TWO new cars!!!
After Friday’s show, the team found a local Mexican restaurant – a Foxfire favorite activity! – and shared stories over margaritas with our new tradeshow best friends, David Firestein and his crew at Powercall Sirens. The famous Dave Statter of Statter911 even graced us with his presence for dinner.
We also had some very special guests: Delicia and Troy Swarr, parents of our own hero, Ian. Ian, one of our biggest fans, is a thirteen year old suffering from Epidermolysis bullosa (EB), which causes severe and painful blistering of the skin. On Saturday, after a second hard day of non-stop work, the Foxfire team was tired, but not too tired to visit our hero in his hometown outside Harrisburg. Ian and his family joined us for dinner where the Foxfire team and our friends from Powercall Siren carried on with stories and fun and had an overall great time. The highlight, however, would have been when Ian asked for an Orange Crush (meaning the soda), and received an Orange Crush mixed drink instead! Lucky for us, Ian is an honest guy and let us know about the mix-up. And don’t worry: there were no shortage of offers to take the drink off his hands, so it didn’t go to waste. Thanks to the Swarr family for being part of such a wonderful evening!
Sunday turned out to be the busiest day of the weekend, and we were lucky to have Ian as part of our crew at the booth. Ian was anything but a spectator. He jumped right in, helping customers find products, making sales pitches, and ringing up sales. We thought Ian was excited to touch his first $100 bill, but he absolutely lit up as he made his first sale. Ian showed a phone case to a customer, giving information about Foxfire and our products and answering all the customer’s questions. He beamed as he made the transaction and watched a satisfied customer leave our booth with a bag in hand.
We here at Foxfire couldn’t have hoped for a better show, and we thank our team members, B.O.T.S., and the many special guests we saw over the weekend. To you, our fans, thanks for encouraging us to come to the show and, as always, thank you for your continued support!
It's here! This week is when Fire Department Instructor Conference (FDIC), the world's largest firefighter training conference and exhibition, is held in Indianapolis.
FDIC is a huge event for MN8-Foxfire. It gives us the chance to meet thousands of firefighters and demonstrate how Foxfire products can help increase accountability and decrease disorientation, thereby keeping them safer on the job.
Today, we dropped our trailer off at the Indiana Convention Center ready for our booth setup on Wednesday (exhibits are open Thursday, Friday and Saturday). If you're attending FDIC, you won't want to miss the MN8-Foxfire Booth (#5571). We have our largest booth yet because we have so many things planned, including some BIG surprises! We can't reveal them all to you now, but we can give you you a sneak peek of where you can find MN8-Foxfire during FDIC and what will be happening at our booth:
- If you're attending one of the Vent-Enter-Search Hands on Training (H.O.T.) training classes on Monday or Tuesday, you may notice some tools illuminated by some familiar photoluminescent technology. These illuminating hooks and axes will be used by class participants during the training.
- Foxfire products will also be part of the Man vs. Machinery H.O.T. classes, led by Lt. Mark Gregory of FDNY and Lt. Pat Nichols of Boston FD. If you're attending one of these sessions, you're certain to notice helmets with Foxfire illuminating helmet bands and other illuminating accessories.
- Thursday, exhibits open at 1 p.m. at the Indiana Convention Center. At 2:30 p.m., we'll be holding a big "unveiling" event for a major product announcement. Everyone who attends this unveiling, held at our booth #5571, will receive a special prize.
- We'll be introducing a total of 5 new products/product lines for the very first time! Since last year, our product line has considerably expanded. In fact, all of our products will be on display/available for purchase during the show. We are very excited about making these new products available to you, our fellow firefighters. As always, you'll be able to view these products in the light and in the dark in our blackout tents so you can see the illumination for yourself. Several of the new products grew from suggestions from our fans and product users. If you aren't able to attend FDIC and see these new products for yourself, we'll be making them available to you and letting you know about them and how you can purchase them later in the week.
- Two of the new products are through collaborations with companies we are big fans of: Fat Ivan and Box Alarm Leather. We can't wait to let you know what these product are!
- Our booth will also be a hub of activity for some of our firefighting blogger friends. Rhett Fleitz, the Fire Critic, Willie Wines Jr., Iron Firemen and Dave Statter, Statter911 will all be spending considerable time at our booth, so be sure to stop by to meet them! Willie and Rhett will once again be helping with Foxfire product demonstrations, so you can ask them firsthand about their experiences using our products.
- You'll also find Mark Gregory and Pat Nichols, from PL Vulcan Fire Training Concepts spending time at the MN8-Foxfire booth.
That's it, our sneak peek of everything we have going on this week for FDIC. If you're attending the show, be sure to put us on our "don't miss" list! Will we see you there?
Here's the MN8-Foxfire trailer, parked in the convention center, and ready to go for the week!
A few months ago we received an exciting call from the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber telling us that they had nominated us for a very prestigious award. Every year the Ohio Chamber of Commerce asks each of Ohio's 22 regional chamber of commerce offices to nomitate an individual company for the Ohio Chamber of Commerece's Excellence in Entrepreneuership Award. This award is presented to an Ohio company that best demonstrates outstanding performance, growth, sustainability, innovation, and has a proven impact on their community.
Last week, a few members of the MN8 Foxfire team made the trip to the statehouse theater in Columbus for the award ceremony. There were 300-400 people in attendance. The keynote speech was by Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. She gave an impassioned speech on innovation and leadership. Carly remained on stage with Andrew Doehrel, president of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce for the award presentation.
I was both honored and humbled to find out that MN8 Foxfire was actually one of the three finalist to be brought up on stage. The governor himself actually appeared via video to announce the winner. When he announced MN8 Foxfire as Entrepreneur of the Year and recipient of the 2013 Excellence in Entrepreneurship, I was completely overcome with emotion.
With this award we also received a check for $25,000. We are firm believers in the "paying it forward" principle and we plan on using a portion of that money to give back to our brother and sister firefighters. We will be working with the Ohio Fire Marshal to identify financially stressed departments in Ohio so we can give them Foxfire products.
As I took in this experience, I thought about how incredible this journey has been over the last few years. I thought about how much fun I have had visiting fire departments all of the world. I thought about what started as a novel idea to help firefighters increase accountability and reduce disorientation has turned into such a thriving and growing company. Words can not express how privilaged I am knowing that 40,000 firefighters in 25+ countries are now safer because of Foxfire.
As I began to speak I remembered three very distinct dreams I had as a young kid. I wanted to be a US Marine, a firefighter and a entrepreneur. I also thought of all those great people and institutions in my life that helped make me who I am today and how none of this would have been possible with out all of their love, support, leadership and connections. For those of you who have a dream, follow it, sometimes they do come true.
I think Theodore Roosevelt said it best:
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."