By Rose L. Thayer

Fort Hood Herald

The way Patti Irvin looked at life, you graduate high school, go to college, get breast cancer. She said she'd seen so many women in her family suffer through it, she never even considered not getting it.

"The question for me was when the dagger was going to fall," said the mechanical engineer with facilities management, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, as she stood outside the hospital staring at three pink fire trucks on Oct. 25.

For the first time, the national not-for-profit Pink Heals Tour drove onto Fort Hood, offering its inspiration outside of Darnall. The tour is part of a nationwide effort dedicated to raising awareness for cancer during October. Organizations embraced the color pink originally as a symbol for the fight against breast cancer, but now the color connotes awareness for all cancers.

Cancer survivors and their caregivers are invited to sign the pink fire trucks, which now have more than 450,000 signatures on them.

"It's pretty awesome," said Irvin, even though the five-year cancer survivor said she doesn't need a designated month to make her aware of its reach.

"I'm aware of it every day of my life," said Irvin. "It's not a bad idea, but I would think breast cancer is on the back of everyone's mind all the time."

Soon, Irvin found herself surrounded by the firemen of the Pink Heals Tour, who, all dressed in pink, wrapped their arms around her one at a time and hugged her.

"Men are wearing her color," said Jeff McCarroll a firefighter from Buckeye, Ariz., who spent 20 days on the tour. "And it's not because she's sick, it's because we love her."

McCarroll's wife is a five-year cancer survivor and his inspiration for taking time off to go on the tour.

"Personally, if I touch one life a day, then I did what I came to do. I cry at least once a day," he said.

McCarroll and his fellow firefighters then recalled the names of the many children, men and women they'd met on tour.

Bob Bidwell, a firefighter from South Windsor, Conn. said, "It's just an unforgettable experience to hear them share their stories."

Continuing, he said, "They're the real heroes. They're much stronger than we'll ever be."

Contact Rose L. Thayer at or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.

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