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I am sitting alone at last. The firehouse is quiet and I can hear the pipes playing in my head. My Chief has fallen. While we ran from tone out to tone out, he slowly let go. As his boys ran the beat, he went to sleep. I miss him, you know. For some silly reason he used to call me "Watash". I think I'll write that on the back of my helmet. He believed in me.
He was our bull dog, our champion. He loved his men. We loved him. You couldn't help it. He believed in us. As the pipes play and the bell is rung, we'll sing a song for our Chief and remember him fondly as he was. But I will remember forever my last moment with him.
We had just run a Code, the boys had performed flawlessly. None older than 22, they fought for another man's life while thier own Chief lay dying in his hospital bed. They did it all, ET Tube first try, EKG and drug therapy, the works. I just stood there and passed them what they needed. You'd never know they were "just kids" as so many prefer to dubb them. I was watching them work and thought, "Not professional? Kiss my A**!" We can take these boys anywhere!

So as I stood next to the chief, I couldn't wait to tell him how well they'd performed, even then, knowing of his struggle, wanting to be with him. I took his hand. It was cold. I leaned over and said, "Watash reporting for duty, Chief." His eyes lit up, and he struggled for breath. I held his gaze, begging God to help me hold back my tears. "You shoulda seen your boys tonight, Chief" I said. "You can be so proud!" He reached up and placed his hand on my face and his eyes grew bright. He tried to talk, but we had to calm him. I told him I understood and I told him I loved him. Then I left him. I left him knowing we were on duty, toeing the line, ready to make him proud. Each University Firefighter, with grief in his/her heart, refusing to quit the tour.

I've never wanted to be a Battalion Chief or any other kind of Chief. I like my place, I like being a company officer and have never longed for the crossed bugles. But now I sit in his place. Only a week ago he sat here, saying "Well, Watash, whats for lunch?" Now I'm here...... And he is gone. Its after 2 am, and I can't sleep. Somehow I have to find the focus and willpower to begin again, to press on. I need to tackle that Battalion Chief's job, and do it for him. I know he wanted that. He believed in his people. He wanted one of us to step up and take it. So we must step up even as we plan his funeral.

We are the very embodiment of his life, his devotion to duty and his dedication to the young men and women who worked under him. We will be a living memorial to the Chief. What an honor to follow behind this man.

But just now, at 2:30 am, in a quiet firehouse, I miss him and I wish I could sit and talk with him just one more time. He was my friend you know.

The Parting Glass

"Of all the money that ere I had
I spent it in good company
And all the harm I ever done
A' las' it was to no but me
And all I've done, for want of wit,
To memory now I can't recall,

So fill to me the parting glass,
Goodnight and joy be to you all!
So fill to me the parting glass,
And drink a health what 'ere befalls,
Then gently rise and softly call,
Goodnight and joy be to you all!

Of all the comrades the ere I had,
that are sorry for my going away,
And all the sweethearts that ere I had,
that wish me one more day to stay,

But since it fell into my lot,
That I should rise, and you should not,
I'll gently rise and softly call,
Goodnight and Joy Be To You All!

So fill to me the parting glass,
And drink a health what 'ere befalls,
Then gently rise and softly call,
Goodnight and joy be to you all!"

--The High Kings

Good night to you, Chief. We're on duty, we're ready to roll!....."And all those kinds of things." --Watash

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Comment by Ben Fleagle on April 1, 2009 at 12:38pm
I cannot begin to tell how much he is missed. But we are gettin' on.
Comment by Jodie Denike on March 31, 2009 at 5:50pm
Wow! No doubt he's looking down...smilig and proud beyond belief of you and all those he loved. I can't muster up much more than that...I feel for you!
Comment by Ben Fleagle on November 28, 2008 at 11:21am
Thanks Brothers All.

You have all impressed me with your love and devotion, respect for the man I wrote about. Our week of endurance is almost done. Last night the Chief's family joined us, his shift, for Thanksgiving Dinner. All 16 came and spent time getting to know the "young Gentlemen". It was a good time. Tommorrow I know many of you will be at the funeral and I thank you and look forward to seeing you.

Chad- Brother, I know you will be here too, I keep you standing right next to me.

RFB
Comment by Nathan Young on November 28, 2008 at 10:04am
We of the Alaska Fire Service family have lost our father, our friend, our mentor, our Chief.

As we look around us and try to understand what has happened and what comes next, we must look to Chief Rounds’ legacy and follow the best we can. There are so many memories that linger and they must all be shared.

It seems like yesterday when myself and a couple of other new rookies on C shift had managed to mess up yet again and Phil came in with that twinkle in his eye, put his arm around us, shaking his head and said “Gentleman…. we can do better”. I’ll always remember those words; he was always telling his crew this and truly lived that idea. We owe it to Phil to carry that attitude forward with us and share it with others.

To help us to get though this dark time, I draw on the words Phil said a number of years ago when we were helping the community of Delta lay one of their own to rest. We were driving in the processional and passing the Delta fire station. Lined up outside the bay doors dressed in full turnouts were our brothers who were covering the station. Phil just shook his head and told us: “Now boys, that’s how it’s done. We pay tribute to our own by doing our job”.

So as we gather this Saturday to lay our Chief to rest, let us strengthen ourselves for the road ahead and rededicate our efforts to learn our job better. Look to your left and to your right and take in the view of the long line of the brotherhood standing shoulder to shoulder with you.

Keep the Faith Brother,
Soggy FOOLS Chapter
Comment by Jon Burns on November 26, 2008 at 11:47pm
Ben, not knowing Phil (met only once), I feel I do now by what you put into words, our thoughts and prayers are with you all at UAF and others, please except our condolences from the brothers at Central Mat-Su Fire.

Burnsy
Comment by Chad Berg on November 26, 2008 at 10:11pm
Ben,

Unbelievable words about an ubelievable man, from an unbelievable brother. We are thinking of Chief Rounds family and the UFD during this week. I hope you feel us up there on Saturday, we are that little tingle on the back of your shoulder, that reminds you, that we are "there".
I love ya brother.
Comment by Mark Barker on November 26, 2008 at 9:13pm
Ben
Your story, and the others are a wonderful tribute to Phil. We have been working on the Alaska Fallen Firefighter Memorial this week, and have also been working on designing an addition that will be a tribute to those special, significant firefighters who have been the foundation of the Alaska Fire Service. As we come up with the design I can think of no one more deserving than Phil to be one of the first ones on it.

You that worked directly for and with him will always have a special bond, but those of us that sent him across Alaska to teach for us also marveled at his talent. He took that same desire, drive, interest and enthusiasm he showed at work and passed it onto his students. The aircraft students that he and Bob Lee have taught over the past 15 years now protect airports and aircraft from Ketchikan to Barrow. He was always a joy to work with and was a great instructor. We are so fortunate to have known him, and to now have many excellent instructors, such as yourself, that he taught. In all the classes you do, you demonstrate and leave a little bit of Phil, and maybe that will always be his greatest legacy. He will always live through each of you.

My family and I will be driving to Fairbanks for the service. It will truly be a pleasure to get together and remember one of the great ones. The University Fire Department is the best place I ever worked, full of the best people I ever worked with. Some are still there, and some have gone on ----- it will be wonderful to see you all again.
take care
Mark
Comment by Tom DePeter Jr. on November 26, 2008 at 5:57pm
Ben,
It's hard to believe Phil is gone. We must carry Phil's torch, providing emergency services to our citizens in need and training up our firefighters to take our place, much like Phil has done. We will never forget him as he lives in each of us he has touched.
Comment by Ben Fleagle on November 26, 2008 at 5:07pm
Brothers:

I look forward to your arrival. Check with the SFA, the Alumni are acting as ushers. Also anyone in uniform can be a part of the line up. This is going to be a proper send off. Hey - Join the FOOLS at Big Daddy's for the "wake" afterwards, we'll have pipes and drums from the Red Hackles with us and we'll be stackin' helmets!!
Comment by Cody Grella on November 26, 2008 at 4:50am
I also wanted to say that I would love to help in the service in any way that I can.
I will be in Fairbanks on Friday, and will be staying until Sunday.
Take care, Cap

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