HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KSNW) – A retired Hutchinson battalion chief is using his free time and creative skills to give back to his former department.
“You work with a lot of great people and you know you want those people to know that they were appreciated,” said Darin Gehring.
Gehring is a second-generation firefighter. His father, Lee Gehring, and brother, Dan Gehring, both held the Buhler Volunteer Fire Chief title. Darin worked for the Hutchinson Fire Department for 26 years before retiring in 2016.
“As a career, it was probably the best career I could have ever come up with,” Gehring said. “In the fire service, you can’t do anything alone — you have to have people helping you, working with you, working beside you. Nothing gets done alone.”
Recently, the Hutchinson Fire Department started the tradition of gifting each retiree an American flag on their last day. It was at a fellow coworker’s retirement party Gehring realized he could add something to that gift.
“I was at Captain Henke’s retirement and the Chief handed him the flag and something popped in my head, ‘I wonder what these guys are doing with these flags because it wasn’t in a case’ — it was just folded up, so I got to thinking about it and I thought I bet I can make one of those,” he said.
“He just kind of started playing around with etching glass a little bit, he sent me a few pictures and he said, ‘hey, what do you think about this?’ said Hutchinson Fire Division Chief of Operations Doug Hanen. “Next thing I know he is wanting to get a flag, get some sizes, and he is starting to put a prototype together.”
Within a few weeks, Gehring had perfected his flag display case. Retired Captain Greg Henke was the first of several to receive one. Firefighter Jeff Miller got his soon after.
“They obviously make them for flag ones that you can order online, but it doesn’t have the meaning that something that was handcrafted by a fellow fireman that you actually served under and with,” Henke said.
“For him to have made that for me, I guess, it was nice, it’s a super gesture,” explained Miller.
Gehring said he does not create the boxes for accolades. He does it because he cares.
“It’s just my appreciation — my little way I can show them hey, I remember what you did for me, I remember how you helped me and I appreciate it,” Gehring said. “It is a very simple thing, there is nothing fancy about it, but it’s handmade, it comes from the heart — you hate to boil it down to that, but that’s what it is,” he added.
Gehring does not charge the department for the display cases. He buys all of the materials himself. He said he plans to create the boxes well-into the future.