EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

June 5, 2013

Salem firefighters shave heads in support of colleague

Firefighters show support for ailing colleague

SALEM — Not everyone is willing to have their head shaved. But when it’s for a good friend and respected colleague, they will do almost anything.

That’s why 54 members of the Salem Fire Department stepped up and cut their hair in support of Capt. Steve McKenna, a 10-year member of the department.

McKenna, 53, is fighting for his life after intestinal cancer spread throughout much of his body, including his liver and lungs.

The married father of two has battled the disease for four years, but said yesterday he’s only been given months to live. He went on medical leave in February, but has remained in close contact with his firefighting brethren while resting at his home in Westmoreland.

The support McKenna received has been overwhelming, he said. His fellow firefighters have been sending him photos of their shaved heads. They are also organizing fundraisers.

“It’s just the brotherhood — I would be doing it myself if the shoe was on the other foot,” he said. “I’m not ashamed to say I had tears running down my cheeks. It means a lot.”

McKenna, who has endured numerous rounds of chemotherapy, said he’s been feeling well, but is recuperating from his third liver infection. Completing even the simplest of tasks can be tough, he said.

“It’s been kind of a rocky road,” he said. “There are good days and bad.”

Fire Chief Kevin Breen said the show of support from his 73-member department has been impressive.

Breen said he was only going to get a buzz cut, but had his entire head shaved after Assistant Fire Chief Paul Parisi did the same.

“It’s for a good cause and, obviously, we’re all thinking of Steve,” Breen said.

Breen said McKenna is a popular, experienced and well-respected member of the department. He also has served as a New Hampshire Fire Academy instructor.

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