- Associated Press - Saturday, November 7, 2015

MADISON, Neb. (AP) - First responders often refer to their teammates as family.

Sometimes, the term brotherhood is used.

At the volunteer fire department and emergency medical services here, it’s not uncommon that such endearments are literal.

Like many other rescue personnel in this town, the Orlowski family has a multi-generation volunteer service record.

It all began with Jerilyn Orlowski, who volunteered with the Madison EMS in 1986 and retired last year. The matriarch and her husband, John Orlowski Sr., have lived in Madison since 1968.

“I had always wanted to do it, but we had foster kids and our own children at home, so I had to wait. I knew I couldn’t just go and leave them when a call came in. And so, when my youngest was finally in school, I took the classes and joined the squad,” Jerilyn said.

The Norfolk Daily News (https://bit.ly/1NSCInZ ) reports John Sr., also now retired, served with the EMS for about 15 years as well.

“It was something that I decided I could do for the community. And I got tired of taking my wife on calls, and I couldn’t do anything. I wanted to help,” he said.

The couple, married for 53 years, had 48 foster children over the years, and they also have four of their own children. Two of the Orlowski children also grew up to serve Madison as volunteers.

John Sr. said their youngest son, Joe, was a first responder before he joined the military. The oldest son, John Jr., lives in Madison and has been a member of both the fire department and EMS for nearly 28 years.

He echoes the sentiments of his parents when discussing his volunteer work.

“I just wanted to give back to the community,” John Jr. said.

While his parents certainly understand the desire to do so, they said they absolutely worry about their son when they hear a call for emergency services go out, and they think about him all the time.

Even being on a call with their son in the past hasn’t kept the parents from worrying about his safety and well-being.

“We were in Madison once, and our barn (out of town) was on fire. The worst of it was John (Jr.) hurried home and was the first one out there. He got in the barn, and it was smoking bad, and he had to be rushed in the ambulance to the hospital because he got too much smoke,” Jerilyn said.

When he responded to fire and rescue calls with his parents, John Jr. said he learned a lot from them.

“They are the most compassionate, understanding, caring people. And let’s face it, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” John Jr. said.

Jesse Orlowski, who is John Jr.’s and Brenda Orlowski’s son, also volunteers with the fire department and EMS.

Jesse, 29, has lived in Madison for the past year and joined “to give back to the community and take care of it.”

“And, I’ve got my older brother that’s moving back here with my niece and my nephew, and that’s good stuff to know,” Jesse said.

John Jr. and Brenda, who volunteers with EMS as well, said they both worry a bit about Jesse going out on calls.

“Of course you think about it, but Jesse will tell you, too, that when you go to a scene and there’s other EMTs about and firemen, they make sure you get home safe. Whether they’re directing traffic or whether they’re using the jaws (of life), I can count on my fellow firefighters, my fellow EMTs to have my back, and Jesse’s,” John Jr. said.

Jerilyn said it’s in the nature of the Orlowskis to want to give back to the community.

“I think we’re a very caring family. We always have been. When we had foster kids, the kids would always say they needed us,” Jerilyn said.

John Jr. said that volunteer spirit is in abundant supply in Madison, and it runs through many families. There are a lot of fathers and sons or cousins or other relations on the fire and EMS squads, he said.

“There’s a lot of people who put in a lot more hours than us. The department is a whole family. It’s a brotherhood. If you’ve never been involved in rescue, you don’t know how these people will take care of you and make sure you’re good with a call.

“It’s our town, and that’s very important to us. None of us could do it without all our brothers in the department. It just doesn’t get any better than small towns.”


Information from: Norfolk Daily News, https://www.norfolkdailynews.com

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