Let me begin this month’s column by issuing a long-overdue tip of the helmet to you, the reader of my bi-monthly trip to the top of my favorite soapbox. Every other month, Firehouse® Magazine grants me the privilege of sharing a little bit of my life with you. A great many of you have...
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Let me begin this month’s column by issuing a long-overdue tip of the helmet to you, the reader of my bi-monthly trip to the top of my favorite soapbox. Every other month, Firehouse® Magazine grants me the privilege of sharing a little bit of my life with you. A great many of you have apparently been reading my bi-monthly columns for the better part of a decade.
Recently, I was blessed with the opportunity to meet with many of you in Wisconsin, Indiana and New York State. During a series of speaking engagements, a number of you came up to me and thanked me for my efforts. You spoke of the impact my writings have had on your lives and careers. Frankly, I was astounded by many of the things you had to say.
I was truly humbled by your comments – particularly those of Battalion Chief Jeff Buenger of Caledonia, WI. He spoke of how he kept one particular column of mine taped to a wall near his desk. He said he uses the column to help him think, and he spoke of how he considers me as a sort of long-distance mentor. That’s some pretty heavy stuff. But I countered with the fact that I keep a picture of Alan Brunacini in my office, for motivational purposes.
I thought about it for the better part of a week, then it came to me as I was sitting in a hotel room. I have to share the gifts which others have shared with me; that’s why I do a great deal of what I do. For you see, the best way to repay a gift is to keep on giving.
It now seems like this would be the opportune time to share some of the reasons for my love of writing with you, the object of my labors. A great many of them stem from my earliest efforts at ascending the ladder toward the uppermost levels in my chosen fire department. They allow me to share what I have learned with others.
Many years ago, I made up my mind to become a fire officer. As I plotted the stages of my journey, one of the things that became obvious was the fact that this trip would involve a great deal of reading. Another fact then came to the fore – people would have to be chosen as role models, and they would have to be chosen carefully.
My readings in the fire service literature go back to the mid-1960s, when I served with the U.S. Air Force as a fire protection specialist. Many of the people who shaped my earliest thoughts are no longer with us. At the time, their thoughts and recommendations were what we today refer to as “state of the art.” These would include Dave Gratz, Martin Grimes, Lloyd Layman, Bill Clark and many others. They were smart enough to know that there was a better way and brave enough to challenge the existing establishment. These were the people who helped shape my early years. They made it clear that the fire service was where I wanted to spend my life.
Just before I got married in 1972, I joined the Adelphia Fire Company in New Jersey as a volunteer firefighter. I was fortunate enough to begin a career in firefighting with the City of Rahway a few months later. What a great life for a young guy from the suburbs who liked going to fires.
I am what I am today because of the people I have worked with, and for. One of my earliest role models was Deputy Chief Maurice Moran of the Rahway Fire Department. He knew the business of firefighting, but more important, he cared about his men. A quirk of fate allowed me to see the good side of this fine man very soon after joining his shift.
About a month after I was hired in Rahway, my wife and her college roommate went away on a trip to the Bahamas. Actually, it was supposed to be our honeymoon, but as a new firefighter I had no vacation to draw on, so they flew out of Newark Airport using the non-refundable tickets we had purchased. It just so happened that I had to work a night shift a couple of hours after dropping them off at the airport. I must have been one dejected-looking young firefighter, sitting in front of the TV, trying to forget that I wasn’t on my honeymoon.