Originally posted on FireRescueMagazine.com
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November is the month for thanks. Families across the nation will travel for the traditional Thanksgiving meal and spend time with family and friends whom they might not get to see as often as they would like. Did you ever have to give an impromptu answer to your parents, grandparents, or maybe a teacher’s Thanksgiving question, “Well, little Johnny, what are you thankful for?”
|Nothing restores morale faster than a working fire with a good outcome. A life saved or property saved stokes the inner passion and affirms that we make a difference. (Photo by Pixabay.)|
More Than A Job
Not everyone gets to do what they love for a career and every now and then, despite our flaws, it’s good to remember how great this job is. Many of our friends and family don’t understand why we chose low pay, crazy hours, and high risk to personal safety over the corporate life. Whether in the middle of a structure fire that’s getting bad or a hurricane grid search on the third day in the driving rain, it’s like Hoot’s famous quote from “Black Hawk Down,” “They won’t understand why we do it. They won’t understand that it’s about the men next to you and that’s it. That’s all it is.” The comradery in military units that have seen combat is the closest comparison to the comradery of firefighters. You don’t usually get that from corporate America in today’s disposable employee environment.
|I recently attended the funeral of a great friend, mentor, and fire service contributor, Cortez Lawrence, at Arlington National Cemetery. He was a veteran of the United States Army and the United States Marine Corp. (Photo by author.)|
Service Above Anything
We see the absolute worst of our communities in the form of inadequate living conditions, an aging population that is often forgotten and neglected, and kids surviving in conditions that shock us to the core. We see the poor, the middle class, and the rich overdosing from drug addiction. We see the aftermath of drunk drivers, distracted drivers, and street racers. We see domestic violence, gang violence, and innocent victims caught at the wrong place at the wrong time. We know the secrets held by many prominent community names, and we know the greatness in nameless citizens who are always there to help their neighbors.
We deliver our services, spend our time, and help people without hesitation, without judgment. The poorest and richest get a full 100 percent when they need us. We often get the opportunity to buy someone another birthday, anniversary, or Thanksgiving with his or her family. Sometimes we just help change a tire, bandage a scraped knee, help someone off the floor and back into bed, or simply offer directions to a lost traveler. In the midst of doing this, we dislodge the cynicism and bliss and focus on making the situation better for anyone needing or willing to receive our help with no hesitation or regard for politics, race, or religion. It’s an example of humanity that occurs hundreds of thousands of times a day across America.
I recently attended the funeral of a great friend, mentor, and fire service contributor, Cortez Lawrence, at Arlington National Cemetery. He was a veteran of the United States Army and the United States Marine Corp. After Vietnam, he entered the fire service and continued contributing until he suddenly died at work on the campus of the United States Fire Administration in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He was buried with full military honors, including a horse-drawn caisson, military band, 21-gun salute, flag presentation, and taps. The attention to detail, professionalism, and precision of the soldiers in The Old Guard did not go unnoticed. The soldiers represented every part of America coming together to honor a veteran. They had never met him and didn’t know any of us, but it didn’t matter. A family friend walked over to the area where the 21-gun salute was performed. He asked about getting the empty shell casings. Without hesitation, the squad gathered the casings off the ground, pulled cloths out of their pockets, and polished each casing before handing them to the officer, who then presented them to the family friend. I thought, that’s what we do as firefighters every time we respond and help without any thought or analysis—just pure human compassion. That is what the recipients of the services performed by the American firefighter feel as we leave each incident. Standing there in Arlington, witnessing all this with the Pentagon, Washington Monument, and Potomac River in the background, surrounded by the graves of 400,000 veterans, made me a little less cynical and a little more thankful.
I am thankful to have the opportunity be a part of the greatest profession in world. I am thankful to be a part of one of the strongest professional brotherhoods in existence. I am thankful for the opportunity and accept the responsibility to make a difference. Thanks to the American fire service for giving me the opportunity do what I was called to do, and thanks for all those who helped and continue to help me along the way.
David Rhodes is a 30-year fire service veteran. He is a chief elder for the Georgia Smoke Diver Program, a member of the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) Executive Advisory Board, a hands-on training coordinator for FDIC, an editorial advisor for Fire Engineering and the UL Fire Safety Research Institute, and adjunct instructor for the Georgia Fire Academy. He is a Type III incident commander for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency-Metro Atlanta All Hazards Incident Management Team and is a task force leader for the Georgia Search and Rescue Team. He is president of Rhodes Consultants, Inc., which provides public safety training, consulting, and promotional assessment centers.