Business Owner Gwen Noe Receives State Firefighter Chaplain Honor

Even serving as a church youth leader a decade ago, Gwen Noe wasn’t feeling productive.

Her family had moved to Nashville from Arkansas so the oldest son Matthew could better pursue his love of hockey. Hearing of his later desire to be a firefighter, she talked to then-chief Chris Bastin about becoming a chaplain with the former Nolensville Volunteer Fire Department.

To understand the role, she joined the Tennessee Federation of Fire Chaplains.

“Before I joined them, I had no idea what a chaplain does,” she said. “Through their training, I’ve learned about all aspects of line-of-duty deaths and funerals, from notification of the family to helping plan the funeral, helping the family fill out the mountains of paperwork and getting benefits.”

In early August, she was recognized as the organization’s Fire Chaplain of the Year.

“I was totally shocked,” said Noe, an owner of multiple businesses, including Stillwater Clothing which she opened last year. “I did not know this was coming. It was very humbling because I don’t do this for the recognition. I do it because it’s a calling, and one of the first things in basic chaplain class is if you don’t feel called, then it’s over.”

Noe has attended line-of-duty funerals in the state, helped with a state fallen firefighter memorial in September, and last October, led the invocation prayer at the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Memorial Weekend in Maryland.

Trained as an exterior firefighter who can’t mask up and enter a burning building, Noe supports those who can. Also educated as an emergency medical responder, she assists with stress management, peer support, and leading prayers.

In 2019, she joined the first team trained in mass casualty incidents and serves on the crisis response team. Crisis intervention helps the team neutralize psychological emergencies.

“One of the things that gets me about doing these is that as first responders, we hear, see, touch, and smell things on a regular basis that other people don’t. A normal person in a 70-year lifespan may see two traumatic incidents, but a first responder in a 20-year career could see upwards of 700,” she said.

“Very obviously, that affects us mentally and emotionally. EMS suicide is continuing to rise. A first responder is more likely to die by suicide than they are in the line of duty. That’s just unacceptable. So, part of what I do is try to make sure our first responders stay mentally healthy.”

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