Let me begin this missive to my fire service buddies by suggesting that the cold winter weather here in New Jersey is wreaking havoc with my front porch-sitting, cigar-puffing, thinking-chair sessions. Ladies and gentlemen, I have been forced to conduct a strategic, retrograde retreat to the safety of my super-sized Lazy-Boy recliner. Let me also share the fact that Mrs. Carter don't allow no seegar smokin' in her home. I can chew on them, but there is no interior firing up of a heater in our home. Hmm, I can see a very long winter ahead, thanks to that groundhog out in Pennsylvania, with the capable assistance of Mother Nature.
Let me assure you that living in an 1880's vintage house has built within me a certain appreciation for the heat which can be thrown off by a well-placed space heater. I keep vowing to add a layer of insulation to the north walls of our house, but it never seems to get done. However, I am soldiering on, snug as a bug in a rug within the comfortable confines of my suburban residential cocoon.
Since the local newspaper delivery company wisely decided not to endanger their home delivery staff, I am confining my news gathering efforts during this storm to the television and the Internet. Sorry to say that these are no where near as satisfying as collapsing into my recliner with a paper in my mitts, and a cup of coffee nearby. But as I stated earlier, I am soldiering on through the best that Mother Nature can hurl at good old Adelphia. However, holding a computer on my lap just isn't the same.
One thing I have chosen to do today is review the notes which have amassed within the pages of my little pocket notebook over the past few months. My dear friend Jack Peltier once urged me to keep my notebooks in a permanent place and review them from time to time. There is, therefore, a drawer in my desk devoted to the last seven years of notebooks I have accumulated. This review is usually reserved for times like the current snow storm, when my intention of traveling is limited to my kitchen, bathroom, and office. So it is to day.
Let me ask you a very serious question. Do you believe in the fire service with all of your heart and soul? Do you give your all to the mission every time it is needed, or are you simply a "sunshine fireman?" That is to say, do you only show up for the times when there is glory to be had? You may rightly ask yourself just what a "sunshine fireman" is. Let me give you the lineage for this new idea of mine.
The inspiration for this thought comes from a passage within Thomas Paine's pamphlet, The American Crisis. This particular literary work was written in December of 1776, at a time when things looked very bad for our revolutionary forefathers. The people who had rallied to the cause of the revolution were having second thoughts, and many of the troops where taking off for their homes. In his quotation Paine stated that, "...These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it NOW deserves the love and thanks of man and woman." I have long admired his words as a clarion call to action for our founding fathers.
It seems to me that Tom Paine was issuing a call for the people of the colonies to suck it up and stay the course. Think about it, this pamphlet was written during the critical winter of 1776-77. This was the winter of the sad days at Valley Forge, when the future of our nation was truly being called into question. Those men who stayed with General Washington were the ones who lead their new nation to its status as a free republic, founded on the bedrock of individual freedom under a Provident Lord.
We remember their names and celebrate their devotion to winning our freedoms. Our history lauds the Washington's, the Von Steuben's, the Lafayette's, the Pulaski's, the Jefferson's, and many, many more. While we may not know all of the actual John Does and Jim Smiths who carried the rifles and did the bleeding and dying, we are confident in knowing that we are enjoy life as Americans thanks to their efforts and sacrifices. We exist because they were not sunshine soldiers or summer patriots.