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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 Brandon Roark on November 22, 2008 at 2:47pm
Dropping a tear for a Brother lost, your poetic words remind me of a prayer by Henry Scott Holland as King Edward VII laid in state:

"Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Everything remains as it was.
The old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no sorrow in your tone.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effort
Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was.
There is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.
All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting, when we meet again."

My prayers are with you Brother Fleagle, UFD and all of the Interior. The pain of this lost extends well beyond the confines of the banks'.

On a final note...."Shamangis" - Never have figured out what he was talking about, but it still makes me Chuckle :)

I will remember Chief Rounds, it's my duty, my honor and my privilege.
Comment by Michael Haefner on November 22, 2008 at 2:28pm
I feel relieved that he is no longer suffering but saddened by his loss.
Cap. Very few people come to mind to fill his boots. I think you are the perfect person for the job.
Comment by Brad Hoff on November 22, 2008 at 2:04pm
Brother, I feel your pain and loss for a man of great honor and pride in his family and all those he knew who lay it on the line so others may live. Brother your words touch us all deeply, even to those who didn't even know Phil but know we lost a great brother and a Chief who loved his men, family and friends very much. We will hold each other up from this day forward remembering and sharing our memories knowing that a piece of our heart is missing.

I can't believe that a brother I have known half my life is resting in peace and watching over us this very minute. I feel I have failed because I didn't pray hard enough but asked God that His will be done and not mine and it was done. He has bigger plans for us all and we must except but never forget the ones He chooses for us to celebrate their life and anticipate seeing their faces when we meet on our day of glory.
Comment by Ryan Cox on November 22, 2008 at 12:54pm
Brother I'm deeply sorry for your loss. I'm sure the Chief knew exactly who he'd be leaving the care of his boys to. RFB
Comment by Matt Mokracek on November 22, 2008 at 11:22am
Cap...your words have brought a tear to my eye. I know that you will do the best in the days to come...thank you for creating such a poetic way for us to remember our Chief Rounds.
Comment by Doug Price on November 22, 2008 at 10:52am
Ben, our thoughts and prayers are with you and the gang at UFD. Sounds like the Chief had a hell of a bunch behind him, and now it's time for you to keep them going, by doing what he has trained you to do. You are the man and your a good man, I was told that by another good man just this past saturday by Chief Lasky. So you and the gang keep up your heads because thats what he would want. Just know he will always be there watching over the great UFD that he led for so long.!!!!! Take care Brother!!!! KTF
Comment by Kaleb Bruch on November 22, 2008 at 9:39am
My thoughts are with your family. I can tell from your powerful words he was a strong man and will be truly missed.
Comment by Andrew Brassard on November 22, 2008 at 8:01am
WOW!! Very nice post Brother.

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