MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – For the last 26 years, the South Florida firefighters calendar has been a dazzling display of sizzling photographs of first responders.
Now for the first time, one of the organizations the calendar benefits raises awareness for a not-so-secret issue many face: post-traumatic stress disorder.
Retired Hialeah Fire Lt. Luis Espinosa has been in charge of the calendar from the beginning. Several months ago, he heard about an organization called "Never Walk Alone," which was started by Miami Beach firefighter Claudio Navas.
Navas began walking the Miami Half Marathon in 2015 to honor a friend he lost to PTSD. His group grew and was bolstered by Miami Fire Rescue Capt. Yami Diaz.
Espinosa thought it was a good fit.
"We have this stigma that nobody wants to talk about. We go on calls, people look at you (like), 'Oh, you guys are superheroes,'" Navas said.
Diaz said the stresses of the job can be a detriment to mental health.
"We want to save lives. We want to protect property," she said. "But we also have our personal issues at home -- challenges. We see very difficult things out there."
Espinosa said he was never formally diagnosed with PTSD, but he believes he has been affected by some of the traumatic calls to which he has responded.
"When you deal with that drowned child at 8 in the morning that really got to you, you don't go home. You've got another 11 calls you've got to go to. So that goes into the closet. And sooner or later that closet gets full," Espinosa said.
Navas said he hopes people enjoy the calendar even more this year, knowing some of the proceeds will help other firefighters.
"Because of them buying a calendar, it's going to probably save a life in the future," he said.
Proceeds from the sale of the calendar will benefit the following organizations: