'Watching them line up to sign up to work for free was just something that really touched my heart,' said Stewart.
The support and love that Jake Owen's colleagues have shown toward him are rare to find these days. The fellow firefighters decided to shave their heads to support their colleague, who was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. Jake Owen is a five-year veteran of the Jarell Fire Department and was diagnosed with the disease in late January, Craig Owen, his father, told GMA. He said that his son went through a 10-hour surgery to get a part of the tumor removed and then went for an 8-hour surgery to remove the rest of the mass.
Meanwhile, his colleagues decided to show their support in their own way. Jake Owen's direct supervisor, a lieutenant, came to work one day with a bald head, said Jarell Fire Chief Ron Stewart. That's what led others to go ahead and get their heads shaved off too. "After that, everyone said, 'Let's go do it,'" Stewart said. "It was just like, 'We've got shears here today, everybody ready?' and they're like, 'Yeah, let's go.'"
According to Stewart, two dozen members of the department shaved their heads and he was one of them. He added that this act is a visual representation of the relationship firefighters have, mainly because of the work they do. "When you go into a situation like going into a fire, a situation when you know that there’s a chance you could get injured or killed when you share those experiences, there’s a bond," Stewart said. "The only way to describe it is if you have a brother or sister, just that they just know you better than you know yourself. It truly is that same feeling."
There is a long journey for Owen in terms of treatment with radiation and chemotherapy. So, the fellow firefighters are also making sure that Owen gets a paycheck regularly. And for that, they are taking on his shifts for him, for free, and donating their own sick days. "They're giving the most valuable thing that they have, and that's their time," Stewart said. "Watching them line up to sign up to work for free was just something that really touched my heart." Jake’s dad and their family feel deeply supported during these tough times. Talking about Stewart, he said, "When we were at the first hospital, he came and he sat with us all day long, said Craig. "And then when we got moved to Houston, he came on surgery day, that next morning, and stayed probably 10 hours."
Moreover, Stewart and Owen's other colleagues often sit with Owen so that his family gets some rest. The department has also started a fundraiser to help Owen and his family with the medical expenses. As Owen is admitted to a hospital in Houston, the family is able to stay in an apartment of the Houston Fire Department, thanks to Stewart.
Craig also shared that while he is with his son in the hospital, his own colleagues are also covering his shifts so that he doesn’t miss a paycheck. "The fire service nationwide is really an amazing thing to be a part of," he said. "It's not always a glorious job, but you have a duty, a calling, to serve people, and that's what they're doing. They're serving Jake and standing behind Jake."
He added, "And honestly, we wouldn't be in the condition we are in now mentally if it wasn't for that and all the prayer groups and just all the support. It's just amazing."