Why Use The Term Volunteer Firefighter?
I want to thank all of you who read "The Supreme Sacrifice" on a regular basis. I also want to thank all who have sent me letters of support and additional information.
Since I have been doing this research, 98% of the e-mail that I receive is positive. The other 2% is either neutral or negative. I had only one person tell me I was a death and gore monger. Well, we're all entitled to our opinions.
During the past few years, I've also received a couple of letters that have asked me why I choose to designate whether a firefighter is volunteer or career.
Below is the most recent e-mail that I received regarding this matter. It was sent by Christopher McCarthy, who is a volunteer firefighter on Long Island and a paid EMS lieutenant with FDNY. I thank Chris for allowing me to reprint his letter in this forum. Below his letter is my reply to his question. I am hoping that his letter and my reply will help to answer the same question that may be on other people's minds. By the way, Chris' e-mail is unedited.
I ask that everyone keep an open mind and to please refrain from sending me e-mail regarding this matter. I will make no further postings to this forum about this subject. There are other forums in Firehouse that are better suited for such postings.
<font color="red">Chief Hank,
I read with great interest and sadness your postings of brother firefighters killed in the line of duty. I am quite impressed that someone (or anyone for that matter) would take up this solemn task.
However (isnt't there always a 'however' ?) I find it quite interesting that you listed Firefighter Carl Olsen's title as 'Volunteer Firefighter'. I dont know why there should be a distinction made between paid and volunteer. I would hope it is not another front of the 'Paid versus Volunteer' war that has raged for many a year.
I hope you accept this letter in the spirit that is intended, as I am only interested in honoring those who serve. I also hope that you would take a second and give what I have said a thought.
Thank you for your time and please continue in this very important and solumn endeavor.
<font color="green">My reply to the forum:
Thanks for writing and for your interest in my research. And thanks for the kind words. I don't normally assume things, but I will take a shot and say that you're a volunteer firefighter. Then again, I have been known to be wrong on occasion......... http://www.firehouse.com/interactive/boards/smile.gif Now, please don't take any of this personal, for it is NOT aimed at anything you have said, but rather in answer to the question you have asked.
Unfortunately, the "Paid vs. Volunteer" war is a war, like so many others, that shall continue until the end of time. As with all wars, it's a product of the mentally inferior. It is a product of people with narrow minds who will find something wrong with anything. It is a mutated product of the competitive spirit of the human race - the need to be bigger, better, faster, and first. While the human race has come a long way, we still have a long way to go.
Chris, I play the role of Switzerland in the war of Paid vs. Volunteer. I am totally neutral and will always remain so. Believe me when I tell you that you can't take sides and do the type of research that I do.
I was a volunteer firefighter for 6 years before I became a paid member of the department. I did my 25 years and now I am retired. I have been on both sides of the fence and have heard all the arguments on both sides. I have heard all the biased, bigoted, and narrow minds on both sides of the fence, and it sickened me at all times in my 31 years in the fire service.
I have the utmost admiration and respect for the "real" volunteer firefighters of America, and I always will. I am terribly saddened by the loss of any firefighter, but I have to admit that I feel a tad more saddened when I learn of the death of a volunteer firefighter. And it's only because the person died doing service to the community because (s)he wanted to, not because, "It was their job." This is not to take anything away from a career firefighter who makes The Supreme Sacrifice. As far as I'm concerned, I wish every firefighter could safely go home to his/her family after every call and/or shift, but I don't see that happening in the forseeable future, unfortunately.
By "real" volunteer firefighters I mean the person that does it because they really want to serve the community, not have a place to hang out, drink, fool around, and blow the siren. I'm talking about the person who actively trains and takes an avid interest in the science of firefighting, the task of fire prevention, and the Godly act of helping their fellow man. Those are the "real" volunteer firefighters of America.
As with all things, Chris, there are good and bad in the fire service. I've known some great volunteer firefighters and I've known some really lousy ones. I've known some great career firefighters and I've known some real scum. Being a "good jake" doesn't depend on a paycheck, Chris. You're either a good firefighter or a bad firefighter. You're either a guy who will give his all or you're not......it's just that simple. There's an old volunteer term - "chowder fireman" - which was a term given to a member of a volunteer department who joined up just to participate in the social functions of the department. If you're a volunteer yourself, I'm sure you probably know at least one of these. In my estimation, that person is not a "real" volunteer.
Chris, I don't know whether you are a volunteer or a career firefighter, but take
a minute and think about the members of your fire department. Just think real hard for a minute and think about who you KNOW you'd be able to depend on when everything goes real bad, real fast. And I guarantee you this, you WILL come up with at least one that you really wouldn't depend on. And then think about the reasons why you wouldn't depend on him/her. I guarantee you, your reasons will be that the person might be immature, irresponsible, apathetic, a hot dog, a clown, an alcoholic, a suspected drughead, etc. But it WON'T be because (s)he is volunteer or career firefighter.
I do not report that a person was a "volunteer firefighter" so as to brand him or her. I report that a person was a volunteer firefighter because that's what (s)he was. And that other volunteer firefighters should take pride in the fact that this person served their community and made the ultimate sacrifice.
In John 15:13, Jesus Christ stated, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Jesus Christ didn't care if the person was volunteer or a career person, and neither do I.
Stay safe, all,
Please be advised that the opinions expressed by me herein are solely my own, and are not to be construed as those of Cygnus Publishing, Firehouse Magazine, or Coolwriter Internet.