We are approaching that day of great hope and expectation. On the 25th of December we will once again celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Many are the folks who would rather religion not be mentioned in our media.
To them I say, no, I shall not bow to your secular demands. I believe in God and I will write about my Lord as often as He grants me the ability to mention his Holy Name. Should you choose to believe differently, please do for you each have that right to personal privilege. Let me tell you why.
Many of you within the fire service many not be aware of the fact that I am a retired Army Reserve officer in the Corps of Engineers. For more than 26 years I played an extremely small role in the defense of my nation. My friends, over the course of my military career I did what I could to defend the freedoms of our nation, just as my father and grandfather before me had done.
My brother also served our nation during the Vietnam Conflict. There were no trips to Canada for the Carter Family. I served in Alaska, The Philippines, and Vietnam. My brother served in Germany as a member of the U.S. Army Infantry. While I was in the war zone, Bob was playing his part in the winning of the Cold War.
Let me assure you that my brother and I were away from home for a number of holidays. Let me assure you that the statement "Freedom is not free" is more than a mere collection of word my friends. Freedom involves more than speeches by the politicians in Washington, DC.
The people chirping the loudest about our great nation are usually the ones who have done the least to perpetuate our freedoms. It is one thing to stand at a podium in Washington and deliver a litany of platitudes. It is another matter entirely to leave your family and travel to a foreign land, far from your loved ones. I have been in many situations where my life was in danger. The Lord was on my side and I came home safely. Far too many have given their lives so that you and I can live here in the greatest nation on earth.
One of those great freedoms my brother and I sought to defend involves the right to worship in the ways in which we each choose to believe. Each of you has the right to do that thanks to people like the members of the Carter Family and millions of other fine, brave souls, like my buddies Joe Ryan, Mike Coale, and Bill Murnane. So it is in this manner that I shall craft a few words for you about the joy of life, with my words and in my way.
I have written a great deal over the years about the existence of ignorance in our world. While my focus involves the fire service, I would like to say that at this time in history a great part of the world seems to be laboring in the darkness caused by ignorance, hypocrisy, and deceit.
Far too many amongst us seem to weaken, give up and then give in to these forces of evil. They tire of the battle and begin to go along with the flawed programs within which they find themselves. You and I understand life's pressures. Let us find the strength in the coming year to battle the forces which would have us give up and go along with the throngs who march under the banner of the status quo.
My dear friends, this is the perfect time of the year to begin our journey toward the light of knowledge in the world today. Much like those who followed the star to Bethlehem to see the Baby Jesus, we need to begin our journey from the dark places of personal ignorance wherein we reside to the enlightened places where knowledge, sacrifice and dedication to a common cause fill us with joy.
For many the light of joy will be brilliant and bright. For others the light of joy will be more elusive. Based upon many of the emails from you, my kind readers, I have been much pause to ponder the true state of our fire service. We do not all live in the same well-lit pastures of joy.
Many of you have shared stories that make me want to cry. My heart goes out to you for the manner in which you are forced to labor in the darkened vineyards of ignorance, malaise, hypocrisy and aggression wherein you find yourselves. For you I would suggest that the weakest light of joy would seem to you like a blazing sunrise; the dawn of a new day in your lives.
I am suggesting that you be the light. Help others to seek out that dim flickering glow of enlightenment and then work to fan its flames to a new, bright radiance. Let me urge you to ignore the gloom and doom merchants, naysayers, and hypocrites. Let us learn to take our joy from the simple act of service. You and I are out there every day working to protect our communities and serve our neighbors. We need to concentrate on the satisfaction we receive from our service.
I would hope that we have long-since put aside the need to hear our praises sung by the people we protect. Far too often we serve an inveterate flock of fickle folks. They want what you and I have to offer, but they never seem to find the time to say thank you. They want, but they never seem to step forward and do anything themselves. As long as we remain invisible and on the fringe of society they are pleased with us. That is just the way it is.
This thought is, of course, based upon my 45 years of helping others in the fire and emergency services world. Perhaps that is why I suggest that you elevate the simple doing of your duty to new and joyous heights. I do not care what others think. I want you to know that I believe we in the emergency service world are doing the Lord's work here on earth. If that is not a joyous thing, then I am hard put to offer a suggestion as to what really is.
Far too many of us live life as though it were a race. We run from place to place and from thing to thing, never really stopping to enjoy the moment. That is how I recall many of my years in the Newark Fire Department. We would race from place to place, and from fire to fire; never taking the time to savor the victories we were gathering on behalf of ourselves and the people we were protecting. More than that, many times we failed to remember the lessons we were learning.
My friends, I find it hard to believe that I have been retired from Newark for over ten and a half years. Where did that time go? Let me share a small thought with you. As you move through life, time seems to pick up speed. Literally one moment I was a rookie fireman and in the blinking of an eye, I was retired.
If you get moving too fast through life, the things you learn may not have time to sink in and stick. Knowledge is one of those joys which I am suggesting that we celebrate. The week small light of knowledge can throw a mighty light into the dark places of ignorance which cover our land.
Let me offer an unusual gift suggestion to you this year. Let each of us give ourselves a personal present this year. Let us give ourselves the time to enjoy our families, our lives, and the life-saving tasks which we all perform. Let us pause at this time to celebrate the joys which have the greatest potential to shine forth their beauteous light upon our nation:
· The Joy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
· The Joy of family
· The Joy of brotherhood
· The Joy and Light of knowledge
· The Joy of taking part in a noble endeavor
· The Joy of being fortunate to live in the greatest land on Earth: The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave
Many have died so that you can celebrate in freedom. Do not let their sacrifices have been in vain. Let the Glory of the season sound forth across the land. I would urge each of you to live the example of a life of joy. Let your example shine forth. Let your wee small light of joy be the beacon to which others are drawn in your world.
Let me close by offering you my best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a safe and joyous New Year. .