by Frank Myers
Originally published in MultiBriefs
All of us understand that work can be challenging at times. But wouldn’t life be boring if we didn’t have these challenges, and subsequently weren't able to reap the rewards with a sense of accomplishment — taking "pride" in what we did accomplish?
There are more volunteer Fire Departments than there are paid professional entities in this country. There is no doubt that members of a volunteer department are unsung heroes and are well respected by their communities. For those of us who are paid professionals, there are some that believe we should not make the salary we make to "just lie on our backs all day and play cards." As one old-timer once put it to me, "We are being paid to be there," at the Fire Station to respond in a time of need.
When I became a firefighter, I did it because it was a "cool" job! I also love taking care of people and helping. Other attractions included neat tools and gear, the apparatus, wearing the uniform, recognition and working for a good department. These benefits were on top of formal employee benefits.
My intent was to, as most career firefighters do, serve for the required number of years to be eligible to retire. One thing people do not realize is that we really do not have any control, for the most part, of our pay, the union contract we work under and the benefits that come with the job. Many have much animosity when it comes to those of us that work under a union contract. That is not why I wanted to be a firefighter.
Early in my career, training academy instructors told us, "For every one of you sitting in your chair, there are 20 others who would give anything to be sitting where you are." I was honored!
I have had very heated discussions with family members, acquaintances and the general public about our salaries and benefits. Without getting too detailed about the exchange, I would say, "You could have applied to be firefighter just like me." The typical response would be, "I would not want your job." It is not for everybody.
One of the Division Chiefs that I worked under toward the end of my career once said to a group of us, "The reason we get paid what we do is because your patch on your uniform says FIRE RESCUE. FIRE itself is still dangerous."
Anytime you put your life on the line to help others, you should be compensated in some way, for the oath you took. However, it is more about dedication than it is about pay. Those we serve need to have that confidence that there are people out there that willing and able save them in a time of peril. Whether it is for our country’s defense, emergency medical services, fire, threats from terrorism, dangerous criminals, whatever, you need to be dedicated to assuming this great responsibility.
I can honestly say that I will defend what I do (or did) for a living to the "nth" degree. It makes me proud to say that I was, and in some ways still am, a firefighter. Others may not feel or see it the same way.
There is one important noun that many of us either don’t know about or have forgotten — "TRADITION." Many occupations do not use this term in their line of work. Ever since I can remember, it has always been part of the military, fire service and law enforcement careers, and among others in related professions.
I always hold my head up high. When you are out in public in your uniform, riding on the fire apparatus, I believe that people not only notice you, but hopefully think highly of you. We are always probably getting “sized up.” They want to know who the person is that is going to come save them. Can you answer the call? How much pride do you have about your profession?