“They Treated Me Like Family.” Meet Frank Sulzer

Hi, my name is Frank Sulzer and I joined Team RWB in September, 2014. I was getting ready to run the Steelers 5k run in Pittsburgh, PA, when I noticed a female carrying the American flag. Her name is Kate Nemec Bielak. I asked her if I could get a picture with her and told her I run in memory of Gerard P. Dewan from FDNY ladder 3 who was killed on 9 /11. Kate asked me if I was in the military and I said no. She told me about Team RWB and handed me her card, and after the 5k run I went home and looked up the Team RWB website.

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I was so inspired by the stories I read, so I made the decision to join Team RWB. At first I felt out of place because I’m a firefighter and I have never been in the military, but once I joined the team and met some of the members from Team RWB Western Pa I realized they all treated me like family. The teamwork that Team RWB shows is so inspiring. It was a true honor for me to be part of the Team RWB Coast to Coast Relay. On my leg of the relay, I ran it in full fire-gear and air-pack, which came with its challenges. During my part of the relay I twisted my ankle. I realized the meaning of teamwork when a fellow team member Sean, got out of the support vehicle and finished my part of the relay. I’ve accomplished many 5k runs in different cities and states, but nothing compares to running this race with a “family”.

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To give some background information, I am 40 years old and have been in the fire department for 25 years and still counting. After 9/11 occurred, I found out my cousin married a family member of a FDNY firefighter that was killed in the World Trade Center. So in his memory, I started doing 9/11 memorial stair climbs. We climb 110 floors in full fire-gear and air-packs. We also carry tools, extra bottles, and hose lines just like they did on 9/11. I do 4 to 5 stair climbs a year. Last year I thought I would do something different so I started to do 5k runs in full fire-gear and air-pack. So far in 2014 I have done 13 5k runs in full fire-gear and air-pack. On my helmet, jacket and air-pack I have decorated it with decals in memory of Gerard P. Dewan and FDNY firefighters killed on 9 / 11.

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In September I was so honored to join Team RWB because it taught me many things. For example, I thought only the military can get diagnosed with PTSD. In January 2014, I found out I had PTSD from being in the fire department, which is something I don’t share very often. I was 17 years old when I was involved in my first bad accident. I was on my way to the firehouse when we got the call stating, “a car rollover with entrapment”. We all tried to rescue the man from the burning car, but had no luck and the car caught on fire. At that point we had to back off for our own safety, but the sights and sounds from the accident affect me to this day. Later when we got back to the firehouse, I found out he was one our own firemen from my station. That experience never left me, this many years later it’s still a constant thought. Being part of Team RWB has helped me a lot because I can always depend on someone.

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Since joining Team RWB, I still doing my 9/11 memorial stair climbs and a lot of 5k runs. Last year I was asked to hold the American Flag for the National Anthem for the Biggest loser 5k run in Erie, Pa and DC. which was a huge honor. Last year I joined a group called, Code 3 For A Cure Foundation. The goal of the foundation is to raise money for fellow firefighters suffering from cancer by doing different kinds of runs in full gear. Both Team RWB and Code 3 For A Cure have given me so many opportunities to better myself and positively belong to team that I can always depend on.