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FDIC 2013: Final Honors

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Thu, 25 Apr 2013|

Bobby Halton discussed the honors afforded those who serve the public in his Wednesday address at the Opening Ceremony.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

Please welcome the Education Director for FDIC and the Editor-in-Chief of Fire Engineering, Bobby Halton. [MUSIC] Good morning. Please sit down, thank you. [BLANK_AUDIO] Good morning. And welcome to the 86th annual fire department's instructors conference. What a beautiful and inspiring ceremony. I'd like to ask you all to please join me in thanking the Pike Township Color Guard. [SOUND]. [SOUND] The Greenwood honor guard. [SOUND] The pipes and drums. [SOUND] The voices of the IFD. [SOUND]. And two of my great friends we had chief Jim Greeson ringing the bell. And my very special friend, retired US army lieutenant colonel father John Carney. Thank you father. FDIC is the largest conference in the world for firefighters. Thousands upon thousands of dedicated people are responsible for making this event the tremendous success that it is. And I'd love to mention everyone that we need to thank for assisting us with this tremendous event. However, that would take up probably the entire conference. But allow me to extend to our wonderful partners and all of our tremendous volunteers, a heartfelt thanks for their countless hours of devotion and their overwhelming support. It's indeed a tremendous honor and privilege to be allowed to speak with you this morning, but I'd like to take a moment. Completely off script. To dedicate the show. And I thought for a long time about how to do this, and I decided that rather than write anything down, or think about it, I'd just wait until I was with all of you, my brothers and sisters, and just say what's in my heart. America got punched in the gut last week. We got punched in the gut in Boston by evil, by the very essence of evil. And we got punched in the gut by physics and chemistry in Texas. In both places, we lost our brothers and sisters. Fallen police officers in Boston. Fallen firefighters, EMS workers, in Texas. A lot of people would think that most countries would buckle when something like that happened. We do not buckle, we brace. A lot of our hearts are heavy, but they're stronger. We saw the worst in mankind and we saw the best. We saw people, regular civilians running with us towards those bombs to try to help. We saw regular folks, fire fighters, and cops side by side racing to West Texas, despite of the danger. America's the greatest country in the world because of that. Nowhere else in the world would see people do that. Nowhere else in the world would you see that kind of love. Because in America, we love one another. In America, we care for one another. And you, in this room, are the greatest example of that. And we will remember them. We will remember them every day. In our hearts, in our prayers, but more importantly, in how we live and what we do. This show, this year, this FDIC is hereby officially dedicated, not just to us and other responders, but to all Americans who showed the world last week that we are the greatest nation in the world. [SOUND] You know, General Omar Bradley said in 1944 that the nation today needs men who think more in terms of service to their country. And less in terms of their country's debt to them. Firefighters are those men and women. We understand that the fire service is not an occupation. It's an institution. Because of that fact, our last moments in the world. Are depicted on the screens, beside me. This photo shows an Honor Guard, folding a 9 1/2 by 5 foot interment flag. [BLANK_AUDIO] Paying last respects. Providing final honors. Honors that are exclusively reserved for those who served. Service provided by men and women who are oath takers. Military, fire, and police. Final honors are the most eloquent display of a grateful nation. For the honoree, it represents our commitment to something greater. Speaker 1: In ourselves. Every firefighter takes an oath of office. Other people simply accept the job. As such, those of you who lead the fire service have a moral and an ethical obligation to those who serve and their families. Every firefighter swore an oath. You probably all recall it, but it went something like this. I Bobby Halton having been appointed to the rank of firefighter, do solemnly swear, that I will support and defend the constitution of the United States. That I will support and defend the Constitution of my state. That I will obey the laws and statutes of the community in which I serve and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of firefighter, about which I'm upon to enter, so help me God. For swearing an oath of fidelity to the constitution, our communities. In the fire service, we are allowed to have flag draped coffins. We are provided final honors. Our nation's most respected tradition. Sadly, it's not uncommon to hear today firefighters, writers say that they think that the public no longer respects the work of the firefighter. Often this is said in reaction to some type of budgetary decision caused by our bad economic times. But budgetary decisions do not reflect how the people perceive firefighters. But human nature being what it is. It is hard for firefighters not to personalize those decisions that we feel are jeopardizing our community's welfare. However, public perception can be affected by our actions and our reactions by our individual and our group behaviour. That's why regardless of how we feel or how unjust that we see a situation we must remain true to our fire service values. We can never allow our conduct or any other fighter fighters conduct to tarnish the hard earned reputation of the fire service. Every firefighter knows that this is the greatest institution in the world and we are blessed for having had the opportunity, the opportunity to serve as firefighters. Undisputedly the most important thing that firefighters need to protect and treasure other than your family and your faith is not our homes. Our cars, our 401ks or our pensions, it is our reputations. Our honor, our character. For our personal honor is a direct reflection on the fire service's honor. We present ourselves in public. We have to remember that the fire service honor is a reputation that's been earned through the selfless sacrifice of tens of thousands of firefighters who've come before us... And you have to remember, there are many jobs that provide service. There are food service workers, janitorial service workers, health service workers, all types of service workers. They do not receive final honors. For those other service workers, there's an expectation. That they will be paid for their service. And many, not all, but many are there solely for the money. That's not how the public sees its firefighters, police, or military. It's not how we see ourselves. The public sees fire service values in us. They recognize that it's our devotion to these values that drives us to complete the mission even at the risk of our own lives. They recognize that to have this level of commitment, one must be incredibly courageous, must have a deep sense of duty, but most importantly, must have a tremendous respect -. For human life. Our profession exists for others. Sometimes for others in grave danger and tremendous physical peril, and sometimes just for others in abject loneliness and despair. The conditions are irrelevant. We exist for others. Today you hear many say that. We need to be a culture of safety, but safety is one of our treasured principles, not a value. Safety is about behavior, an organizational climate. Safety is a strategic principle, an honorable and a worthy one meant to guide our behavior and our organizations, but it does not define. The fire service culture. Others - [NOISE] Others claim we need to be a culture of extinguishment. But, extinguishment is one of our treasured principles, not a value. Extinguishment is about operations and fire ground excellence, not culture. Extinguishment is a tactical principle, an honorable and worthy one meant to guide the synchronous behavior of our deployments, but it does not define our fire service culture. And still others claim that we need to be a culture of survival and discipline. Survival and discipline are treasured principles. They are about the pursued perfection of individual skills. An element of climate, not culture. Survival and discipline are principles meant to guide our personal behaviors and help us to more disciplined and focused. But they do not define the fire service culture. Our culture is defined by our values, loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, integrity and personal courage. But one value above all the rest, truly defines the fire service culture. Selfless service. Selfless service is the value that guides us in the darkest of smoke and through the most intense fires. It's the foundation of our honor. We're a culture of selfless service whose roots go back many, many years. For example, on December 29, 1894, the sixth battalion buggy slowed to a stop, and the chief stepped off into a cold New York City night. A bitter, damp December wind cut through his dirty bunker gear like a knife. His knees ached. His hands were sore from gripping trumpets and slappin' backs and helping the men to stow gear. His mind was on the 11th street job that he just left and he wondered if there couldn't be a smarter way to pick up gear. He wondered if there wasn't a better way to help save the mens backs when they were picking up after battling a fire. He knew that, that was a time when the men were extremely vulnerable to serious injuries, and many a sleepless night he had spent trying to figure out just how to reduce those injuries. Tonight he thought, was going to be no different. But no sooner did his second foot hit the apron floor then the bell sound again. He turned from the man door in his buggy, he thought for a second that he never felt as tired as he did right now. Well maybe except for the time he served as a drummer boy in the 69th Irish Brigade. Marching as a drummer boy in the Civil War was the defining moment of his life's journey. During the war, he often wondered if the war was ever gonna end. But he trusted it would. Because the men that he respect, mired most in the world, told him that it would. The tenacity and the perseverance of those honorable men, kept him and all the younger soldiers going. Everything about those men were burned into his memory. But mostly it was their commitment to unfaltering service. He admired those officers, the sergeants, and the old veterans. They never asked anyone to do anything they wouldn't do themselves. They never hesitated, they never complained, they pushed through, they inspired, they innovated and they created an atmosphere in that camp that convinced him and every one of those younger soldiers that Master Robert was not invincible and that the Union would prevail. He marveled how they inspired him and all those around him to fight the good fight. And that they never spoke poorly of any of those Confederate soldiers. Rather, they often praised them and complimented their honor in battle, and wished them no harm. And prayed that the war would end with no more death. Now, more than 30 years later, as the chief of the 6th battalion, he was racing up 23rd street for a fire in a lamp factory. He knew the route by heart, and as he made the last turn he started to size up the street. He could see strong fire and smoke pushing out of the top and 4th floor. Not a good sign. The men had grabbed some lines and plug. The were pulling lines. The axes were making short work of the doors. Good men. Strong backs, and skilled to near-perfection in the use of their tools. His men, New York's bravest. He gave his engineer a few requests to check and he headed for the door. Tightening his coat, setting his helmet, and looking over his crews, at the door he mentioned to one burly Irishman who was swinging his axe. He said, I'm glad to see you sobered up from your daughter's christening last week. The big Irishman just continued to swing that axe and goes same to you [UNKNOWN]. And all of a sudden the door crashes and falls inside. The smoke hadn't hit the first floor yet. That;'s a good sign. He gave a wave to the two hose teams waiting behind him to follow with assistant foreman John L. Rooney at his side. He started to lead his men quickly to the stairway. Assistant Foreman Rooney was the winner of the Gordon Bennett medal for distinguished bravery for the rescue of a young girl who he coaxed into jumping into his arms as he stood atop the top rungs of a ladder, saving her from a fiery death. He trusted Rooney. The men trusted Rooney. A good man. A good leader. Together they led the way up three floors to the menacing fire above, directing the men to the scene of the fire, then stepping aside as they expertly applied their streams to good measure. He scanned that factory for extension. He examined the floor and the stairs. For integrity and he kept a steady eye above for collapse. He glanced at those streams as they moved across the ceiling, breaking into what looked like this heaving August rain drenching that fire. The fire had a strong head start, and the fuel load he knew was considerable, but with John Rooney by his side. He knew, he had confidence that his men would hold this fire. Suddenly without warning, the roof gave in as the giant water tank above's weight was just too much for those fire weakened supports. The anguished firemen work as men possessed and they struggled furiously through their tears and frustration to try to free Chief Bresnan and Assistant former Chief Rooney. But it was too late. Both men died under the crushing debris. The facts of this story are accurate. The legend is documented. On December Twenty Ninth, 1894. Battalion Chief, John J Bresden, inventor of the Bresden distributor, the hole roller, and a swinging harness for horses, was lost in the line of duty. It was said of Chief Bresden, that no braver, abler, or more conscientious man than John J Bresden ever drew a paycheck in the service to the city of New York. It was noted that Chief Brennan's entire career record was unsullied by any official complaint of any character. It was the obituary of a true fireman. You know, Aristotle said, you will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind, next to honor. Chief Bresnin exemplified personal courage and honor. He lived our fire service values. His behaviors displayed in highest commitment to our most treasured principles. Safety. Extinguishment and survival and discipline safety was his number one priority on the fire ground. Safe fire fighting, safe training, and safe post fire operations. He placed extinguishment number one. On his fire ground priority list. He led the most disciplined and skilled firefighters of the day, whose survival was his utmost concern. It is clear that the science and art of firefighting requires more than talent and passion. It requires character. It requires quality individuals of honor like Chief Rooney and Chief Resnan. You see firemanship is not about concepts, it is not about methods or organizations, although they matter. It is about individual service. Character and honor. The following is a quote from Sgt. Major Glenn E. Morrell." The most impressive thing about any army is the individual soldier. He will always be the one responsible for taking and holding the ground in support of our foreign policy, missions, goals, and objectives." . Even with sophisticated technology and advanced equipment an Army can not fight, sustain, or win a war, without the individual quality soldier. It is just as accurate, just as clear, that the most impressive aspect of the fire service is the quality of our individual firefighters. It is the individual who represents the honor of the fire service. It is not the association nor the department. It is not the union or even the company. It is the individual quality firefighter. That firefighter, who despite all odds, who despite all limitations, who despite all the risks, continues to pursue our mission... Who despite all the obstacles and barriers continues to bear true faith and allegiance, in the correct order, to the Constitution, their community, and the fire service. But how do we recognize good character? How do we recognize men and women who are truly quality individuals? Where do we find such people? That answer is simple really, we find them in good homes, we find them in good churches, we find them in great organizations like the Boys Scouts and the Girls Scouts and the Explorers. We find them in big cities and little towns and we find them in every fire department, America. But what's more important than where find them. Is what we find in them. From what we find in every quality individual, who is willing to sacrifice themselves for others is a truly honorable character. And by character we mean two things really, we mean a distinctive set of personal qualities by which you are known, that's your personality. And a moral strength or honor. Three of those personal qualities that identify quality firefighters are courtesy, punctuality, and self control. Courtesy proves to the world that we have care for the feelings of others. Punctuality proves to the world that we have a sense of duty, and that we respect others' times. And self-control proves to the world that we have the courage to control our fears, and thereby, display the ability to remain calm in life-threatening situations. These traits serve firefighters well in the service to their communities. Albert Schweitzer sized, sized it up this way he said I don't know what your destiny will be but one thing I do know the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and have found how to serve. [SOUND]. [SOUND]. Every firefighter recognizes that they have found the most honorable way to serve. In 1995, a young US Airforce pilot named Scott O'Grady was shot down during a flight mission over Bosnia. He was rescued after surviving six days of being hunted by hostile ground troops. He returned home to a hero's welcome, but he denied being a hero. Looking back on what drove him to serve his country and do his best to represent it with personal honor and valor, he said, it isn't the reward that matters or the recognition that you might harvest. It is the depth of your commitment, the quality of your service, the product of your devotion. These are the things that count in a life. When you give purely, the honor comes in the giving, and that is honor enough. [NOISE] Honor. Enough. In every community across our great nations selfless quality firefighters are setting an example for all of us. Giving purely, serving selflessly, defining honor, and exemplifying character. For example, a crew from Rochester was returning from training. They saw smoke in the sky. They responded to a blaze on Tarmac Drive. The Rochester crew was able to pull a man in his 50's from the home. Honor, enough. An off duty Trebusco firefighter was driving home. He came upon a burning home. He entered the blaze, found a disabled resident. He pulled the man outside. The fire chief from Washington Township said. That fireman from [UNKNOWN] pulled him out of the driveway, and advised us that we needed paramedics. The man survived. Honor enough. Lieutenant Eric Wallace had declared a Mayday while conducting interior operations in Bryan, Texas. Lieutenant Greg Piccard was part of the rec team that enter the burning facility to rescue Lieutenant Wallace. The team encountered unbelievably dynamic conditions. And all three rescuers sustained severe burns while locating and extricating Lieutenant Wallace. Lieutenant Wallace was dead. Lieutenant Picard died from the burns he received in that rescue. Honor enough. sss [SOUND] Captain O'Grady was right. When you give purely, the honor comes in the giving, and for us, that is honor enough. It is honor enough for every firefighter. Honor that can only be won by individual acts of courage. Honor that can only be won by the self-less sacrifice for others. And so, we leave here today dedicated to our mission to being quality individuals like Rooney, like O'Grady, like Picard. We leave here today dedicated to being courteous, and punctual, and self controlled. We leave here today dedicated to our oath, dedicated to serving purely. We leave here today knowing that the fire service honor is intact. Because that honor lives in each and every one of us. In you and me, we leave here today assured that the public does respect our work, our mission and our values. And let there be no mistake about it. As we sit here today, somewhere, some firefighter is getting ready to put it all on the line, getting ready to follow in Lieutenant Picard's footsteps if he's called on, without hesitation, without falter, selflessly, with courage and with honor. Thousands of fire fighters this year will enter burning buildings, rescue trapped citizens. extricate traumatized drivers and do CPR on babies. We will respond selflessly, not for money, not for recognition, but for others because we swore an oath. Because we are members of the institution of the fire service, and for us, that is honor enough. [SOUND] [SOUND]. Thank you, and god bless the United States of America. Color Guard, dismissed! Turn, forward! Walk on, move! Time, march! Quarter turn! Forward! Forward! [BLANK_AUDIO].

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