John Lennon once wrote “All you need is love”. In a person’s early years that might be right on, but in our adult worlds I have to disagree with him on this one. While love is something that is extremely important, and something we all crave, I submit that the one thing we all need most in our lives is something that Aretha Franklin sang about all those years ago also, “respect”.
Respect is earned – we’ve all heard that before, right? Well, by the time we’ve become adults our actions have already proven who we are – morally, socially, etc. While we are constantly evolving as beings, our core values are usually set in our early adulthood.
In recent years the respect level shown to firefighters by those outside our profession has been seemingly non-existent. We have been under constant attack by those who would accuse us of being overpaid and over-glorified public servants. Many outsiders don’t understand what we do or how we do it. None of the politicians have shown us the respect we deserve. To them we’re merely numbers on a budget ledger.
The one thing we have maintained during these recent attacks on our integrity is our mutual respect for each other. In our close knit brotherhood we’ve had each others’ backs and respected what our brothers and sisters have done or earned – by way of actions on the street or promotion to higher ranks. This has been true for as long as I can remember. For the Providence Fire Department this began to change as members became more and more disheartened under the parade of weak Chiefs of Department after Mike DeMascolo. It got continually worse until it bottomed out under George Farrell.
Once this chief was forced out I had great hope that things were going to change for the better. Well, they have……..yet they have not. We now have an administration in charge of our fire department that is attempting to restore the pride, the integrity and the honor to the PFD. Years of petty and personal decisions made to benefit a chosen few have lead the rank and file to lose the overall pride we once had for our great department. Although I may not always or completely agree with the way the new administration is going about it, their efforts could turn the tide in the right direction.
However…..they need to understand that we will never be as “spit & polish” as the military. We are the working man’s heroes. Part firefighter, part nurse, part plumber, part chemist, etc. – jacks-of-all-trades. We get our hands dirty on a daily basis. When a person is being attacked or robbed or threatened they call the police. When they find themselves in danger from any other source they call the fire department…and we always respond in a professional and timely manner. No matter what!
Another area that this administration fails to take into consideration when dealing with the individuals on the department is the importance of “honorable service” – especially a long and distinguished career of honorable service. This seems to mean nothing to them. They need to understand that for all the right strides taken to restore pride in our department, discounting the value of the individual’s service will most certainly sabotage any possible gains in that area. The rank and file members need to believe that their service and loyalty toward the betterment of the department is a two-way street.
I believe that until this administration understands these facts our department will never turn the corner toward becoming, once again, a fire department that we can all take pride in.