By Cindy Bennett
“We have found our life of service to be absolutely satisfying.” Kirk and Linda Waggoner. Kirk is a life long Cody native. Linda born in Montana, lived in Powell for several years before moving to Cody. They married 33 years ago, first meeting while volunteering for Park County Search and Rescue.
For the past 25 years, they have worked with Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) in Wyoming. In Park County specifically, Kirk and Linda volunteer as team peers on the Park County Critical Incident Stress Management Team, Linda as team coordinator and Kirk as a law enforcement peer. According to team peer, Clinical Director Theo Riley, “CISM provides intervention for first responders to diminish post-traumatic stress. Responders include individuals ranging from law enforcement dispatchers, EMT’s and highway patrol personnel to family members. Incidents may include deaths of children, multi- casualty accidents, deaths of peers, or other traumatic scenarios. Through a group process, CISM helps first responders stay in jobs or volunteer activities long term without developing post-traumatic stress disorder.”
In the 1990’s, Linda attended a specialized training in Denver from Jeff Mitchell, Ph.D., founder of the CISM model, becoming one of the first volunteers in the newly formed WYOASSIT. Notes Kirk, “First responders can have a history of burn out. Burn out is a result of unmitigated stress. Dealt with properly the stress can be managed. Adds Linda, “After a traumatic event, the functional and emotional elements of a responder have to come back together psychologically so that a responder can feel whole. It’s important to validate their emotional response, give them permission to be human, and reintegrate the emotional piece into their functional lives.”
As volunteers in WYOASSIT and after its disbandment, Linda and Kirk provided intervention services free of charge, traveled to locations throughout Wyoming and Montana, and provided face-to-face sessions with the necessary follow up for individuals to make sure they were all right. Theo Riley commends their service, “When help is needed and someone asks whom can we get to support our responders? Linda and Kirk are often the team that responds. I have seen Linda and Kirk work hundreds of volunteer hours on the telephone or in person to provide support for emergency responders.”
Along with being the first woman in Park County Search and Rescue and volunteering as an interventionist peer and team coordinator, Linda is an interventionist trainer for Wyoming Law Enforcement, an EMT, a wilderness medic, a CPR and First Aid trainer, and canine handler. For the past three years, Linda along Theo Riley have created statewide consistent training for CISM, providing trainings in Pinedale, Saratoga, Rock Springs, Laramie, and Powell. Linda is the contact person in the Cody area, (307) 899-1581.
Kirk, in a addition to being a long time Search and Rescue volunteer and volunteer law enforcement peer, was Deputy Sheriff in Park County from 1972 until 2010, a photography instructor for the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy, volunteer firefighter for thirteen years, and a Cody Fire Chief.
Fortunately for the Cody community, Kirk and Linda’s shared passion for volunteering in emergency situations created quality trainings for first responders and helped people in need to have confidence regardless of their situation. They also share a love of spending summers on their boat at Yellowstone Lake – where they still field emergency calls from rangers all summer long!