United States Army Drill Team performs at burn camp Wednesday. Photo by Katrina Wilson

JBM-HH’s fire station rolls out carpet for young burn survivors

Wednesday, JBM-HH firefighters hosted youth from the International Burn Camp, an annual weeklong event that brings together campers from burn camps across the United States and Canada.

A burn camp unifies young survivors, providing emotional support through activities and sharing of experiences. The experience, at JBM-HH’s Fire Department, included performances from the Old Fife and Drum Corps and the United States Army Drill Team before a barbecue lunch with firefighters.

JBM-HH’s Commander Col. Kimberly Peeples believes that individuals should invest in themselves to achieve their goals.

“I encourage all you campers to set your dreams high,” Peeples said. “Whatever it is that you want to do, you can do and achieve it. You’ve already shown one of the key pieces of being in the military or any job — resilience, strength and service.”

Because there are more than 50 regional burn camps between the U.S. and Canada, nominations are put in for the survivors and their counselors to attend.

“The different camps nominate the best campers and counselors to represent them here,” said Jeannell Justin, International Burn Camp assistant camp director.

Fire inspector James Dansereau with the JBM-HH Fire Department has been a part of this event for 15 years.

“This camp is special because they all come from regional camps where they know each other year after year,” Dansereau said. “When they come here, they have not met some of these survivors from Canada, California or wherever. They just blend because they have a common bond of their injuries, trials and tribulations in life, and are all being successful.

He added that two successes are two alumni from this camp who went to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Dansereau said over the years, the campers have been like personal motivators for him, and that “burn victim” is a negative term.

“We use the term ‘survivor’ because ‘victim’ has a negative context,” Dansereau said. “‘Survivor’ is something positive where (burn survivors) are moving forward with their lives.”

After the performances from Old Fife and Drum Corps and the drill team, the campers were able to ask questions, drum or take pictures with members from each group.

Jazmin Fernandez was in attendance. It was her first time coming to JBM-HH, but said she liked how she made new friends earlier in the day.

Fernandez discussed what life after her incident has been like.

“It’s been pretty normal,” Fernandez said. “I get asked what happened to my arm. I say I got into an accident with hot oil so others can get the hang of it.”

She said people usually feel bad for her, but she said she is glad her burn accident occurred.

“I actually like that my accident happened to me because I have met a lot of new people, really supportive people and it helped me become myself,” she said.

For anyone recovering from a traumatic experience, Fernandez provided some advice.

“I would say they should believe in and be comfortable with themselves,” Fernandez said. “There are a lot of people (who) go through (trauma) and they should try to get support.

Camper Elijah Miller discussed similar sentiments. He talked about what helped him after his incident, and he said it may help others.

“Go to your local burn foundation,” he said. “At mine, we have Talk Time. Once a week for an hour, you can talk about your burns, insecurities and talk to others. You learn from other people’s experiences and stories.”

Miller said for those who have not been in an incident like his, but still traumatic — talk to others.

As far as how it felt being at JBM-HH for the day, he said: “It’s been really good, they treat you like royalty because you are doing stuff you really normally wouldn’t do.”

By Katrina Wilson

Pentagram Staff Writer