Many times, Sentinel-area volunteer firefighters transition from serving community to serving country.
The Millersburg Fire Co. is promising those in uniform that they won’t be forgotten while they’re away.
As a visible sign of that promise, the department began a new tradition late last year – hanging a U.S. flag in the stall housing the volunteer’s turnout gear. It’s the department’s way of telling these men and women – ‘‘We got your six’’ (military jargon for ‘‘We have your back.’’ See sidebar for the origin of the term.) And it’s struck a chord, both locally and beyond the region. ‘
‘We’ve received over 200,000 views on our social media posts (about the support gesture), which is huge for a small-town fire company,’’ said Heather Alleman the organization’s vice president. ‘‘I’ve actually received messages from other departments saying they want to start the same thing.’’
‘The meaning is what’s important’
Millersburg itself saw social media posts of a company that had hung flags for those in military service, and the leadership knew it wanted to do something similar.
‘‘We get so busy in our daily lives, it’s a way for us to remember that person and remember that while they may not be here for us, they’re serving their country overseas,’’ Alleman noted.
The first two honorees – Conner Adamire, with the U.S. Marines in Japan; and Sgt. First Class Thomas ‘’TJ’’ Acker, in Oklahoma awaiting deployment overseas – had the opportunity to hang the flags over their stalls, and the department wants to continue doing that going forward, according to Alleman.
‘‘It’s so simple to do – just the cost of a flag; it’s not some huge expense,’’ she noted. ‘‘The meaning of it is what’s important to us.’’
That simple gesture meant a lot to those being honored. Acker said he was told about the ceremony and asked to hang his flag, but until it was done for Adamire “I didn’t know it was something we would be starting, although I wasn’t particularly surprised.’’
Millersburg has always ‘‘got the six’’ of its volunteers, who either served or are serving, Acker noted. “In my almost 12-year career in the U.S. Army (July will be 12), our company has been incredibly supportive, from the newest member to the most tenured and most senior leaders. So it was no surprise the leadership would do this,’’ he said.
Both he and Alleman noted that the department also honors its volunteers’ time in uniform with another notation at their gear rack – the official insignia of the branch of the U.S. Armed Forces in which they served or are serving.
Megan Adamire said the flag hanging was only one of several visible ways the department has supported her stepson.
‘‘Millersburg Fire Co. has really spearheaded a lot of the support Conner has received from Millersburg from the beginning of his training,’’ she added. ‘‘They’ve worked with us in any way they can to support him, from letting us use the firehouse to surprise everyone with his visit, to letting us use the hall to have one last meal all together to say goodbye, to hanging the flag and sending him packages while he is gone.
‘‘His dad (CJ) and I think about and pray for Conner daily while he is stationed overseas,’’ she said. ‘‘It is incredibly encouraging to know that the entire fire company thinks of him, too, and that they also care enough to ‘hold his spot,’ so to speak, until he returns.
‘‘I truly appreciate everything they’ve done for him and hope they’re able to continue these traditions with other service members like Mr. Acker as they deploy for active duty,’’ she said. Volunteers on active military duty also receive ‘‘care packages’’ from the company – featuring snacks they aren’t able to obtain at their duty post (i.e. Middleswarth potato chips, etc.) Conner’s mother Erin Adamire, also appreciated what was done on his behalf.
‘‘The Millersburg fire company has been a part on my family for the past two-plus years as my brother recently resigned as one of their chiefs,’’ she explained. “Conner got started with the company in, I believe, his junior year of high school as part of his senior community service project. When he left for Parris Island we were told that if he was ever deployed overseas, that the fire company would have that member hang a flag over their gear until they returned. ‘‘However, Conner was not SEE SIX • PAGE A8
The Meaning of ‘We Got Your Six’
The phrase ‘‘We got your six’’ originated with military jargon to designate the position of enemy aircraft in combat. With a squadron at the center of a proverbial clock face, the enemy’s position is likened to where the two hands are placed at a given hour.
Thus, ‘‘12 o’ clock’’ is in front of the formation, while ‘‘6 o’ clock’’ is in back of it the most vulnerable spot in a combat setting. Having someone’s ‘‘six’’ is another way of saying ‘‘having their back’’ in support of their endeavor.