From left, Capt. Jimmy Carson, firefighter/paramedic Kellie Mozek and firefighter/paramedic Brad Muirhead, of the Harker Heights Fire Department, pose by the department’s truck. Firefighters across Texas are wearing pink T-shirts to commemorate October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Harker Heights firefighters/paramedics Brad Muirhead and Kellie Mozek go through supplies on a stretcher while wearing pink T-shirts Friday in observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Departments show support during Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By Rebecca Rose

Killeen Daily Herald

Real men care enough to wear pink.

That’s the message local firefighters in the greater Killeen area are sending, donning bright pink T-shirts to show their support in the fight against breast cancer.

To help commemorate October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the International Association of Firefighters approved a resolution in 2010 encouraging membership to help honor women fighting the deadly disease, which claims more than 40,000 lives annually.

The campaign is part of the “Cares Enough to Wear Pink” campaign, which was adopted by the Texas State Association of Fire Fighters.

“Cancer is one of the worst diseases of them all,” the resolution reads. “We need to come together to fight it, which means more of us who haven’t been affected need to step up and lead the way.”

In Harker Heights, firefighters at the Indian Trail station were decked out in the commemorative T-shirts throughout the week.

“I’ve always supported this,” said Jack Collier, Harker Heights Fire Department chief. “But now, from a personal standpoint, it really hits home with me.”

Collier said watching his cousin struggle with breast cancer has made the efforts of men and women in the Harker Heights Fire Department more poignant.

“I support it even stronger,” he said. “This is a great cause. Hopefully, one day we will find a cure for this deadly disease.”

In Killeen, fire chief Jerry Gardner said many of the firefighters are wearing the signature pink shirts on the job.

“They were really excited about it. They really seem to be buying into the program, getting into it,” he said. “Anytime we can participate with an organization that promotes fighting cancer, the firefighters want to participate.”

Like Collier, Gardner said the disease has personally affected his loved ones.

The cause especially hits home in many firehouses, since historically firefighters tend to have a much higher rate of cancer than non-fire fighting residents, he said.

“It’s because of the things we’re exposed to in our jobs,” he said. “So many of our own brothers and sisters in service have contracted the disease in one form or another.”

On Oct. 24, fire departments in Killeen and Harker Heights will participate in the Pink Heals Tour, a national fundraising tour spearheaded by Arizona firefighter Dave Graybill. A special pink fire truck will make an appearance at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center, manned by a group of firefighters who call themselves “The Guardians of the Ribbon.”

“This is really a brotherhood and sisterhood,” said Gardner. “Firefighters are always willing to band together to help.”