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What is Our Brotherhood?

A buddy asked me for a favor last week. It was my pleasure to collaborate with my dearest friend, Jack Peltier of Marlborough, Massachusetts, on a project for which he had volunteered. Jack was asked to say a few words on the concept of Brotherhood for a recent ceremony in Leominster, Massachusetts.

He asked me for a few thoughts. I was only to glad to share a few of my thoughts on the concept of this critical fire service concept. Far too many people are living lives of selfish, self-interest. I am always willing to work to provide a counterbalance to the selfishness of this world of ours.

As usual, my brain did not shut off once my thoughts were shared with Jack. It seems to me that a lot of people are running their mouths about something with which they have had very little experience. Every time I hear someone talk about the Brotherhood, they do so with bent-up leather helmets, dirty gear, and no SCBA.

They make it seem as though the only place where we experience the Brotherhood is at fires. Such a narrow view or a grand and glorious concept saddens me. If we do it right, it becomes a force to guide our very souls. Brotherhood is a 24/7 part of our lives.

You cannot turn it on and off, or share with some folks and not others. You are either a part of the Brotherhood, or an imposter dressing in firefighting garb. The all-encompassing nature of Brotherhood is one aspect of being a part of the fire service that seems to be increasingly overlooked by the members of our service.

Trust me when I say that this is a battle and it is not always a young against the old sort of conflict. It is about a lack of respect for the proud traditions that have carried us this far. It is about a respect for people, past and present, living and dead. Any time that I witness or experience some place where there is an absence of respect, I feel that I am experiencing an environment totally devoid of any spirit of Brotherhood.

These are the sorts of fire departments where people who cannot make time to attend the wake of a member of a nearby department. These are the places where older members make life very difficult for the new members of their department. These are the departments where people of all ages cannot go out of their way to do something for a brother or sister.

A great many people pay lip service to the concept of Brotherhood. I have seen tens of thousands of words and reams of paper devoted to it. However, when it comes to living the concept, many people seem to be earning a failing grade. There is a lot of "talking the talk", and a woeful absence of "walking the walk".

Brotherhood has been around for a long, long time. My friends, it has been around literally since the dawn of time. Reading in the First Epistle General of Peter we find these words. "Honor all men. Love the Brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king." It would seem that Peter gave it great value. Why else would he place it right up there with love of the Lord?

Is this how we look at Brotherhood? I would ask you to pause and ponder the ways in which you might honor the brotherhood. There are also those who consider the Brotherhood to be an all-boys club. That is a load of crap. My dear friends Brotherhood is a sex-neutral term referring to the bonding of people with similar interests. In our case, that interest involves membership in a fire department.

The philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, writing in the late 1940's, suggested that "men and women unequivocally affirm their brotherhood." According to, "