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My thoughts rank from the simple to the complex. On one level, I still get a kick out of what I do. There is something deeply rewarding about confronting the challenge of controlling a blazing inferno. You arrive and things are chaotic. You leave, and some form of order has been restored. And it occurs because of your direct actions. You have changed something.
On a more complex plane, there is the thought that I am truly my brother's keeper. I create an environment where my troops are trained, nurtured and supported. Were I to leave, would the members of my battalion receive the same care, concern and treatment? No one is irreplaceable, but I would like to think that I bring a certain pizazz to what I do. They are my guys, I am their servant.
On a very personal level, and in a rare position on the face of God's Green Earth, I actually am my brother's keeper - I serve as the safety officer for my brother at working fires, and he covers my back. He is my second-alarm chief; I respond in kind. How many brothers can share this type of affection and affinity? How can I ever replace this?
As we marched out of the church behind the pipers into the bright light of a beautiful fall day, it became obvious why I should stay with the department:
- I still love the men.
- I can still do the job.
- I still have something to contribute.
- I still get a kick out of being a fireman (yes, I am that old that I still think of myself in that quaint term from a bygone era).
It is my hope that this column has given you cause to ponder why you do this thing we do. Maybe you will go to work with a new sense of purpose. Maybe you will hang in for the gang. In any case, it has allowed me to focus my thoughts. I just reached over for the phone and made the call to headquarters to pull my retirement papers.