By Tech. Sgt. Wes Wright
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Throughout his firefighting career, James Giddens, Schriever Fire Department assistant fire chief, has seen a lot of change.
Multiple presidential elections, the Internet, Facebook, cell phones and hybrid cars have either started, occurred or significantly developed during the last 30 years. However, three things have remained constant during that period: death, taxes and his mustache.
That all changed Nov. 12.
The Schriever FD is heavily involved each year in raising money for October’s Breast Cancer Awareness month. This year, they wanted to get creative and really motivate their members to support the cause.
“I was slow walked into it,” Giddens said. “The guys were discussing ways to raise money for breast cancer awareness. Then, they asked how long I had my mustache. Before you know it, I was volunteering to cut it off if they raised $500. I think I fell for it even faster than they expected.”
The fire department also sold T-shirts to raise money with the slogan “Fight Strong” on the back with a pink ribbon. The firefighters were allowed to wear them as a uniform shirt during October.
“Our fire department is involved with a few charities throughout the year, like Empty Stocking Fund and others,” said Matthew Clark, Schriever FD firefighter. “Breast cancer awareness hits a little closer to home. Just about every member of the department has a family member or friend who has been affected by breast cancer. The goal was never money or a cool shirt, the firefighters wanted to show those people fighting, we love you and fight alongside you.”
As expected, the firemen became doubly engaged with the awareness efforts after Giddens announced his intended incentive.
“Once the department realized the goal was achievable, there was a step up in donations,” Clark said.
Giddens told his crew whoever donated the most money could perform the shaving honors. With the opportunity to carve their name in barbering history on the line, the competition soon heated up between the firefighters.
Joseph Jaffe, Schriever FD firefighter, emerged as the early front runner, as the FD quickly surged to their $500 goal.
“I could tell as the month went on he was getting pretty excited about the prospect,” Giddens said. “When the day came, there was some dispute about who was going to do the work, but Mr. Jaffe won out.”
Jaffe said the challenge motivated the team members to donate and get involved in breast cancer awareness efforts.
“It definitely gave us a little extra oomph this year,” Jaffe said. “While it was definitely funny, we understood this is a very serious topic and we were able to give to a good cause.”
On the fateful day Giddens mustache faced the electric guillotine, the department decided to make it a production.
“They had me put on one of our awareness shirts while they shaved me in the truck stalls,” Giddens said. “I was laughing most of the time, not sure why. In the end my face was cold and the floor and shirt I was wearing looked like somebody had just skinned a squirrel.”
Jaffe reveled in his duties that day.
“It was funny to see him without a mustache,” he said. “I think he looks like he has no upper lip.”
To his chagrin, Giddens must wait at least 30 days before he can regrow his “lip.”
“My wife is not happy about it,” Giddens said. “The neighbor’s dog almost bit me the other day when I went over. However, every time somebody asks about my mustache, I get to tell them why and hopefully help increase awareness.”
Clark said this year’s efforts were a smashing success and believes, much like Giddens mustache, the efforts will continually grow.
“Each year the participation has grown as well as the donation,” Clark said. “This year, assistant chief Giddens mustache removal helped us reach a higher donation goal and awareness. Our intent was and will be to raise awareness of the fight with breast cancer and show support for the people who struggle through the fight.”