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I had the distinct honor (for which I have to admit I am poorly qualified, compared to most of you) to be the first keynoter at the International FOOLS convention in Seattle this week. It may very well be the most humbling event of my career because of the caliber of men and women whom I was asked to address. I am so proud to be a member in good standing of this outstanding organization. Although many who are un-educated about the works and purpose of the FOOLS may not understand my feelings, I ask you to please let me explain to you who the FOOLS are.

The FOOLS exist to protect defend and preserve the traditions, customs, and courtesies of the fire service. They are founded on the principal that all firefighters must first and foremost celebrate the fragile, precarious, and ever threatened sanctity of life. Some outsiders with no experience in life-and-death work may have been confused by the FOOLS early image as wild and irreverent partiers. Rest assured there is an element of celebration and emotional honesty that exists, but no more so than in any other community which is willing to lay down their lives for their fellow man, their country, and their values.

The FOOLS have correctly put life, all human life, as the number one priority and the protection of life as the number one mission of their organization. As a FOOL, you have one responsibility: A FOOLs actions, attitude and deportment must always live up the tradition of those who came before us in the fire service, a FOOL will never disgrace or disrespect the heritage and honor of the fire service and always put service to others ahead of our own self interests.

That is some mission statement, one many of us should re-read and ask: am I living up to the tradition of those who came before me? Of Ben Franklin, of Tommy Brennan, of Chief Croker, of Chief Ganci, Chief Brunacini, Jim Page, Dick Silvia, Eddie McCormack, Frank Brannigan, Don Mayo, John OHagan, John Norman, Vinny Dunn, Leo Stapleton, Emanuel Fried...the list goes on and on. Is what you are doing to do today, right now, something which will bring credit and honor to the legacy they have entrusted to you?

I have been exposed to some really great folks who feel that by behaving somber and morose that they are somehow acting adult and professional, and clearly most times they are. But what they fail to understand or remember (and maybe it is because they have removed themselves so far from the dangers of firefighting) is that celebrating life and being joyous with reckless abandon has forever been the hallmark of the warrior-poet class.

In these unique communities there always exists an organization, one that is separate and distinct from our political, organizational, and labor groups, which is entrusted with defending the faith. The warrior classes find refuge in these groups. They find comfort in the community to like-minded souls who love them, warts and all.

This week I was able to sit and talk to men and women who I admire as firefighters and leaders. I was able to sit and visit with men and women who get it and find their energies are increased by being a FOOL and are extremely active in IAFF, IAFC, Women in the Fire Service, The Black Professional Firefighters, Hispanic Firefighters. Literally every fire service group you could imagine has FOOLS inside it and, in many cases, at the helm.

It is a service organization which, as it grows and evolves, has no worries for they truly live. Greater love hath no man. Keep the faith, always do the right thing. And remember, be careful out there.


posted by Bobby Halton
7/12/2008 03:21:00 PM

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Blogger lepompier said...

Chief: Your words are a great honor to all FOOLS. It was as if you were providing a blessing on our endeavor, something that is no longer done in this faithless world today. Most of all, I could tell you meant every word. For me, I liken it to when a son gets the nod from a proud father, who is pleased with work well done. It lets us know we are on the right road, however narrow and difficult. Thank you, --A Warrior Poet of the Farthest North FOOLS

Tue Jul 15, 01:39:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Greg said...

Sir: Thank you very much, we very much appriciate your kindness.
~South Florida F.O.O.L.S.

Tue Jul 15, 04:05:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Aaron Heller said...

Thanks for your dedication to a group I so heartily believe in. Your words from the conventon and above all, your actions truly validate what so many of us work toward daily. Sorry I missed you in Seattle. Godspeed.
Aaron Heller

Thu Jul 17, 12:05:00 AM EDT  

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