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I just got back from the FOOLS Convention in Seattle and I'm still riding high from it, a little wound up, a little melancholy, a bit homesick. Funny, I had never met most of the firemen and women I met down there, yet so many of them have left a mark on me, a h*** in my soul that I cannot fill, now that I am gone from them again. We shared many great moments. Like John and Walt on the Pipes, the helmets stack halfway up the wall, and Gilbert becoming one with the barrier, the Pub crawl and being cheered on the docks in Seattle by the people who only knew that we were firemen.

I go back to the firehouse in a day, and I'm looking forward to it, but I can't help feel as though half the company won't be there. Darby, Materi, Brandon, Chad, Steve (George), John, Todd, Frosty and all the guys I met that I felt as though I'd known my whole career.

As I go back to the Engine, I know that I take with me, things that will mark me for the rest of my career. I intend to be every bit the "warrior poet" that Chief Halton describes in his blog, and to make being a "traditionalist" my calling. Not that I wasn't before, but that now I have seen how it binds us together over thousands of miles, it fills me with a resolution that is somehow, (if that is possible) more solid and purposeful than before.

As I go, I will remember the young men who greeted me throughout the convention. Each one shook my hand as if I was some sort of hero, some sort of renowned "man of the hour". How unworthy of such praise I felt. Who knows where they got the idea that I was some wise old salt. Don't they realize I'm still looking over my shoulder for the crusty old man to lead me? Crusty old man is gone. I've taken his place. I'll take these young men with me as I go. I will call them to mind when I am discouraged and downhearted in the fight to keep the Faith alive. For it is for these young men that we push on. It is for the younger generation that all of this is preserved. It is so that they might know why Andy died, why the six died at Worcester, why so many charged the stairs in the twin towers and why we look at each other and hold close men we barely know. Each of us would give our lives for the other. This is what we are.

I'm melancholy as I go back, because in my heart I carry the images that Josh Materi created in his photo essay for us. The words of Springsteen's song go deep as I think of everyone I've known in the fire service and how the loss of any one of those would affect us all and has. I think of the Prez' (International) and how he helped me to understand just how much it means to him that we keep FOOLS from dying. He said, "I know firemen are going to die, but we must do everything we can, so that at least every FOOL has been trained and accounted for. So that no FOOL can say his training let him down" Prez, I'm with you.

As I go to work, I tuck my leather helmet under my arm. It will be my headdress as I don it to lead my young men. As I go, I carry with me all the men who have gone before me, my brothers, 200 years worth of the finest men that ever put their hands to a task. As I arrive on scene and step to the fore, I bring all of those men with me. That's why my mustache is long, I wouldn't want to be under dressed in such company.

My Brothers, each of us has trials to face back at work or at home. We love this job like no other, but when faced with Mutts and Budgets of all shapes and kinds, our passion can be seriously doused. So I quote to you the words I shared with my brothers in the Farthest North FOOLS as we realized how much work we had to do when we got home. "We are the right men, at the right time, in the right place. There is no other place I'd rather be". There go the tones, get on the rig, we're movin' out.

See you at the Convention next year. Chad, brother. You were right. I won't miss another one.


Ben Fleagle
A Warrior Poet of the Farthest North FOOLS

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Comment by Andy "Sippy" Biron on July 17, 2008 at 10:43am
Ben ,
June 24 -28, 2009......
Just in case you need them for HR. If you need our bank routing number for direct deposit let me know.. LOL

Your Lid......
Your Badge.......
Your Life...........

Comment by Ben Simonds on July 17, 2008 at 1:53am
I can wait for leave picks. All the brothers here are excited. They were pissed they missed this one. I should just have HR started taking money out so I have it for next year :)
Comment by Chad Berg on July 17, 2008 at 1:51am
Boy, you brothers can put it on paper. Yes, it was truly something special, and I told you will never miss another one!

Love ya brother!
Comment by Ben Simonds on July 17, 2008 at 1:11am

where to start. So many things were in my mind when I got home I could not sleep. All I could think was 5 hours till shift and How was I going to explain to the guys what I had just witnessed and gone through in Seattle. I compare it too one of those life altering events in which you go back to later and say I remember that I was in such a such place when it happened. The only difference is only those that attended will ever know what truly happened in Seattle to "US"

The brotherhood that ran through the streets of that city were infectious and now we are required to attended these conferences yearly otherwise we may become over whelmed by "Mutts and Budgets" and the only cure is a Giant dose of National Brotherhood.

I take your words to heart Ben. I respect you and all that you do. The talk at the airport meant a lot to me. As a young pup, a young FOOL, you and chad set a good example for me to follow as I try to lead my chapter in the direction and path that is set before us. Our chapter is young and does many good things but after this week there are so many things I look forward to achieving with this group of Brothers.

As far as our too chapters are concerned I look forward to many great things. we are it brother. We are exactly what the state of Alaska needs and what I truly think a lot of the brothers want. The state is so young that there is no "tradition" in the sense of age. It is our time and our chance to be "those guys back in the day" that we all talk about. That in 60 years when we are gone the guys will want to know why we do this or that and the senior guys will tell them cause my capt or lou taught me. I want to be that guy.

I look forward to talking about us and the future convention idea. I think we can do. In fact I know we can. We are the doers, the ones that set the bar. Instead of getting a handful of people that want the training and the brotherhood there will be over a hundred from all over the country. We will keep in touch and just like i said we may never talk all that much but it could be months and next time i see you it will be as if we were just in seattle.

Take care Ben be safe..
Remember with the young ones up there "The FOOLS are going to be the ones to do the training and bring us home safe" Bobby H


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