As is my way, I was out on the front porch the other day puffing and pondering the fate of the world. It was a beautiful Fall day and the temperature was up into the low 60's. It was truly a beautiful day to be witnessing the glory of a beautiful day here on God's Green earth. As I looked out at the American Flag waving in the gentle breeze, my mind began to drift back to an earlier time and place in my life.
My thoughts turned to the great days when it was my privilege to serve as Chief of the 5th Battalion District in the good, old Newark Fire Department. It was truly a most rewarding time in my life. John Griggs was my deputy chief and he allowed me the singular privilege of running my own show. He was there if needed, but he allowed me the freedom to do those things which I felt to be appropriate for the fine men with whom I was allowed to serve.
Let me share a story about one of the great guys in our battalion. I can recall the time that one of my guys was going to get married. Tony Hopler was one of the good guys and his future wife Sue was the perfect fit for him. They decided to invite a number of us to their wedding at a lovely Catholic church in New Brunswick, N.J.. I was honored to be invited to this pivotal moment in their lives.
As I recalled the event, I remember that it was a beautiful, sunny day as we entered the church. It was truly a joyous day. One of our firefighters was about to be married, and his company buddies and I were pleased to be in the congregation to share in the joy of this special occasion. Deputy Chief Griggs and his wife were also in attendance. The music was appropriately beautiful, as was the bride. All-in-all, it was a distinct honor for us all to be there.
Many times during my career, I gathered together with my fellow fire department travelers to celebrate, commiserate, or mourn. However, this special day marked a first for me. It was the first time that someone in our battalion had taken the plunge into married life. Oh, there were a number of married guys, but this was truly different.
As is my way, I grew teary eyed as the bride moved slowly and gracefully down the aisle. I find that I am not afraid to cry when it is the appropriate response. It is an action which I have found it hard to counter. If I am going to cry, I will cry. Tough guys have that privilege too. And I ain't all that tough.
During the course of the service, there were some fine Biblical readings, with many analogies regarding marriage as a journey. One reader even likened it to climbing as mountain. Another person spoke of the necessary teamwork and understanding that marriage requires. As an old married guy myself I was well aware of the wisdom of each of these selected verses. My marriage would have perished a long time ago were it not for the charming and ultimately lost understanding Mrs. Carter.
At one point in the service, Tony and Sue moved from the main altar to a small shrine occupied by the Holy Mother. After placing a bouquet of flowers on the altar, they knelt for a moment of shared prayer.
As I watched them from the rear of the church, a thought suddenly flew into my mind. As this man’s battalion chief, I now had a responsibility to not only him, but his wife. Any decision that we would make in the future about using Tony’s skills and services at a fire would have both direct and implied ties to the lovely woman kneeling at his side.
Now for some of you this may not seem like a terribly brilliant thought. Maybe it was just an old thought abruptly thrust into my minds eye. However, the point is simple. What you and I do as fire officers in seeking to accomplish dangerous tasks though the efforts of our firefighters is never to be undertaken in a vacuum. There are many ramifications which must be understood and introduced into our thought processes.