The combination of a lymphoma cancer diagnosis and the desire to spend more time with his family and maintaining his business, Micheal Dwyer resigned March 9 from the Arlington Volunteer Fire Department after 37 years and answering more than 2,200 calls.
On March 10, Dwyer received a call after leaving church from Assistant Chief Chris Martens who wanted to meet with him. Dwyer headed home and as he came around his corner, he saw something very unexpected. Every fire truck was around his house.
“There were a couple seconds of ‘What is that?’” he said. “Then I saw people on my lawn. I pulled into the driveway and got out of the car. It was incredibly emotional, wonderfully hard.”
Dwyer saw Martens and AVFD president John DiGiorgio. The others drew his attention for another reason.
“I happened to see the faces of most of the young people and that’s when it hit me that I can retire with confidence,” he said. “I’m not worried about if they’re going to step up and if they are going to be okay. I’ll sleep very well knowing that they’ve got it.”
Dwyer still remembers his first call. He remembers why he started looking into becoming an EMT in the first place. His last call was March 7 at a fire in Kennard. He said he is going to need time to get used to not replying about the department as “our department.”
“I’ve been an EMT for 37 years, primarily in the back treating a patient or as squad captain, which I recently resigned from a third stint,” he said. “I was responsible for the EMS operation in our district.”
Two precipitating events brought Dwyer into this field. A car accident happened outside of a restaurant he and his wife owned in the 1970s in South Dakota.
“I ran outside to see an elderly couple. He was partially ejected, and she was injured. I stood there and watched the guy die because I didn’t have a clue what to do,” Dwyer said. “That felt horrible, not only being at the event, but not being able to do anything.”
That night he swore that wouldn’t happen again.
“If God gives (me) the opportunity to do that again, (I’ll) know what to do,” he said. “I signed up right away for a CPR class.”
Dwyer and his family moved back to Nebraska and his kids were in Cub Scouts when Dan Wolf was teaching first aid. Wolf noticed Dwyer was interested and invited him to join the fire department. Dwyer told him he was interested in becoming an EMT and Wolf said the fire department would take care of that.
“That was 1983 and there was a waiting list to get on the department,” Dwyer said. “I waited almost six months for an opening.”
Dwyer said it was impressed on him early on the importance of responding to a call.
“In the volunteer world, you’re subject to who shows up. You have to make a quick decision about whether or not to go,” he said. “Hopefully, you have a solid crew of people who can jump in.”
Dwyer said now is a great time to join the department when there is such a need across the country.
“In my resignation letter, I mentioned that it had been the greatest joy and honor of my life to serve with other men and women who are incredibly courageous and choose to use that courage to serve other people. There isn’t anything better in the world,” Dwyer said.