I had occasion the other day to spend a considerable amount of time with one of today's youth. I was interested to speak with him due to all the discussion nowdays about the state of today's younger generation. I know it seems to be a topic the fire service is finding more and more worth while to address. I see this issue raise in the specific areas of training and management of new firefighters. So on to my meeting, I hope you find it as eye opening as I did.
I was taking an afternoon to myself, away from the station and my family. I was working on some issues as it related to training on my department. I found myself at a local coffee shop, laptop deployed. A young man sat next to me and began to read a paper. I noted he was wearing an army uniform. It was crisp, clean and neatly appointed, as if I would expect any less from a uniformed serviceman. I was a little puzzled at why I was surprised his overall apperance was so squared away. I realized that I had a low opinion of today's generation and really wished to explore the issue. So I struck up a converstaion with this young man. He was only twenty. As we spoke and I was able to gain his trust and he told his recent history of service to this country. He had spent the last year in Afganistan, at war. We exchanged stories of close calls and the like. His stories were of combat with Taliban and mine of course with fire. He seemed baffaled that I would willingly fight fire. I was astonished at his bravery and sense of duty. He explained that he was home for a while, just arriving to the area last night. He was at the coffee shop waiting to meet some friends. Our conversation then turned to family relationships and friends left behind overseas. He was clearly torn between being home and wishing to serve along side his brothers and sisters still deployed. I know I understand that level of committment. His freinds arrived shortly there after. It was a mix of fellow servicemen and two contemperaries who did not sign up for the military. They were all of course, young. I was still welcome among them, and gladly joined in the conversations. Long story short, it was fun. But more than that, I noticed something on that one young army war veteren. It took me most of the afternoon to identify what I was seeing. I saw the eyes of my grandfather in his eyes. A warrior, proud of his counrty. Proud of his service. I know we all seem to honor and esteem the war veterens of our past. We gladly write songs for them and wave American flags when they pass. My friends, on September 11, we were asked a question in the fire service. We were asked if we would die to protect our country from terrorism. Without a doubt, we the firefighters of America, said yes. The children of that day not only said yes but have traveled across to foriegn lands to carry our fight. To defend our brother and sister firefighters from ever dying on American soil again. So I realized I had more in common with the young ones than I beleived. I beleive, if we are patient, this generation of up and coming rookies will move the fire service forward. These returning veterens will influence thier fellows in a positive and remarkable way.
To my young soldier friend from the coffe shop, start a few fires over there for me and I'll put out a few over here for you.
Safe returns for us all. Thank you.